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This article has corn listed as the most important crop produced in the world. For some reason I feel like rice, or wheat is the more logical choice. So what were the conditions, and events, that led to the widespread production of corn?

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The big difference is geographic diversity. Wheat doesn't do very well in the tropics. Rice requires tropical and semi-tropical areas where lots and lots of water are available. However, corn can be grown nearly anywhere.

Corn kind of had a tough row to hoe (pardon the pun) in the Americas. It was first domesticated from the grass Tseosine in tropical areas of Mexico. However, the geographic axis in that part of the Americas is north-south rather than east-west like in Eurasia. This means that, unlike Eurasian crops, in order to spread to new areas of cultivation, corn had to be bred for new varieties capable of thriving in different lattitudes than it was originally domesticated in.

This process took 8 millenia (more if you count in the original Tseosene domstication) to reach up to the lower Mississippi valley. However, once it was completed, Corn became one of the world's only staple grains that can be cultivated both in temperate and tropical climates.

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The 1977 sugar tariff and government subsidies for corn also substantially increased corn production for sweetener use in the United States. Conversely, Europe places limits on how much corn sugar may be produced. How much of an effect that has had on the global acreage of corn isn't obvious without research, but it's an interesting historical footnote. –  SevenSidedDie Sep 8 '12 at 20:28
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Wheat and rice are food that humans eat but humans also eat chicken, pork, beef, turkey, eggs, cheese, milk and many other animal products. So what do you think animals in cages and feedlots eat? Corn and more corn. Animals like cattle eat the whole corn plant. Also, the yield of corn plants is much higher and has more nutrients than wheat and rice.

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+1 for the agricultural facts about corn. –  mart Jan 28 '13 at 12:55
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Corn is the most versatile of crops.

Rice needs a nearly tropical climate in which to grow, and also lots of water for paddies. These conditions are present mostly in Southeast Asia.

Wheat is a northern crop that does better in dry land. It grows best in Kansas, and areas to the north, and areas to the west of that state.

Corn can be grown in "subtropical" areas such as parts of Mexico, but without needing as much water as rice, and grows well fairly far north, up to parts of Nebraska and basically the Great Lakes region as long as there is enough water (more than is needed for wheat). Thus, it is the crop that is most representative of "growing" climates.

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You can also find Corn grown in Canada, driving from Vermont up to Montreal for the first hour you see a lot of corn. –  MichaelF May 9 '12 at 12:17
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