Saturday, 11 September 2010

Zea mays - Maize (Corn)

(Sentence added on 16 Sept: Today I saw corn on the cob for sale in Booths our local supermarket - 65p or three for a pound!. I wonder if it is local?)
Pictures taken on 2nd September in a field near Gargrave
Maize Zea mays 
Grass of the Month - September
1: January - Reed Canary Grass - Phalaris arundinacea 
2: February - The Common Reed - Phragmites australis
3: March - Blue Moor-grass - Sesleria caerulea
4: April - Sweet Vernal Grass - Anthoxanthum odoratum
5: May - Meadow Foxtail - Alopecurus pratensis 
6: June - Quaking Grass - Briza media 
7: July- Timothy Grass - Phleum pratense
8: August - Common Bent - Agrostis capillaris
9. September - Maize - Zea mays

We think of maize / corn on the cob as yellow grains in a tin at the grocers / supermarket -

Yet did you know that:
The great majority of the maize grown in USA and Europe is grown as cattle feed (the whole plant is harvested)
The three cereals Maize, Wheat and Rice supplyalmost two thirds of the worlds calories
Although a cultivated plant, maize can grow as a garden escape so is now included in flower books such as Stace

My memories of maize:-
  1. In a little patch in our Yorkshire suburban garden, in July and August, hoping the summer would be long enough for the cobs to ripen.
  2. In A level biology classes -genetics- of us being shown colourful cobs with grains of different colours
  3. As a student worker at the Grassland Research Institute, Hurley:- taking some cobs away at the weekend to boil and share with relatives. Cobs from maize growing as cattle feed.
  4. In West Africa including Sierra Leone, there was a season when maize was for sale, roasted at roadsides for passing travellers. It was grown intercropped on sandy soil in Niger. In fact it was about the only plant I recognised when I first went to Sierra Leone.
  5. I once found some young leaves growing on the harbour at Watchet in Somerset, and puzzled what grass it could be. It has wide leaves and a ligule with hairs along the edge of the ligule.
  6. We see it in the UK occasionally in farmers fields in the UK - and say "Look - there's some maize"
Much of the maize imported as cattle feed to the UK is GM maize.

There is much to learn about maize. e.g.:-
Facts and figures on Food and Biodiversity

Here is another big grass:-  Miscanthus near Copt Hewick near Ripon, in the last week of August. It is used for biofuel.

"This is really not very good for biodiversity- there are no plants growing underneath it." I thought.

But then  looking at the maize, there are no other plants under that ..

and under wheat and barley there will be no other plants.  That is why the RSPB is so keen on having wide field margins that allow other species to grow, to provide food for insects and birds.

At least there is a wide filed margin here.

No comments: