Rice and corn: History, cultivation techniques
Cereals have been a dominant part of our food since farming began.
Rice is the staple food for a large part of the world's population, and corn has become paramount, particularly in the variant of maize for animal feed.
Rice was first cultivated in Asia 8000 years BCE. Its importance is evident in the fact that, in Oriental languages, the words ‘rice’ and ‘food’ are often synonymous.
There are many varieties of rice, classified according to the size of the grains.
Rice is mainly cultivated in one of two ways: Irrigated rice cultivation, when rice plants are submersed in water (account for 75% of the world's rice) and rainfed rice cultivation (25%). Asia produces some 90% of the world’s rice, including 30% in China alone.
Corn as we know it today, did not exist in a natural state. It was the result of numerous selections and the crossbreeding of a wild grass called teosinte, a plant grown as forage in Mexico about 9000 years ago.
Over the years, pre-Columbian civilisations selected the best plants and thus the size of the cobs and the number of kernels per cob gradually increased.
Corn is available in more than 200 varieties throughout the world. There are also new varieties of corn that have been genetically modified to improve their resistance to certain pests and herbicides.
Corn has become a symbol of intensive farming in Western Europe, the US and China, but it is also extensively cultivated in western South Africa, and semi-extensively in Argentina and Eastern Europe. The US is the largest producer and devotes around 39 million hectares to farming corn.