Indigenous peoples living in the lowland areas of southwestern Mexico may have cultivated corn or maize more than 8,700 years ago, according to research reported in March 2009. Molecular biologists identified a large, wild grass called Balsas teosinte as the ancestor of maize. The suppression of branching from the stalk resulted in a lower number of ears per plant but allows each ear to grow larger. The hard case around the kernel disappeared over time. Today, maize has just a few ears of corn growing on one unbranched stalk. To read more about the research, visit nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=114445.
Credit: Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation
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