Corn is grown in every state of the United States. Dent corn is more commonly grown in the U.S. than flint corn (known as sweet corn), mostly because it is in higher demand. Only about one percent of the all the corn grown in the U.S. is sweet corn. Most flint corn today is grown in Central and South America.
There are two different types of corn with different purposes.
The first is dent corn, which is most of the corn grown in the United States. It gets the name dent corn because of the dent, or dimple that forms on the top of each kernel when it starts drying out. It is commonly called “field corn” and is used for a variety of purposes such as fuel, livestock feed and thousands of other bio-based products like carpet, cosmetics or aspirin.
Dent corn is used to make ethanol. The by-products of ethanol—distillers’ grains—can provide high-quality food for our livestock.
The second is sweet corn and it is the type found in our grocery stores because its primary purpose is food for humans. Fun fact, sweet corn kernels always grow in an even number of rows on the cob.
Other types of corn are popcorn and flint corn, which we know as Indian corn. Corn flour is often found in corn tortillas and corn chips. Popcorn seed is especially neat because different varieties can grow different colors of kernels.
If you’ve ever taken a bite out of an ear of field corn you’ll know pretty quickly it’s not the same as sweet corn. Field corn is much higher in starch and doesn’t have as much sugar to make it sweet like the other types. Sweet corn is harvested when the kernels are soft and flavorful. Field corn is harvested later in the season when the plant has dried, the leaves and stalk have turned brown, and the kernels are hard.
Check out the National Corn Growers Association's handout for more interesting information about corn.
- Likes: Flint corn: Farmers’ markets and butter; Dent corn: Animals and cars
- Interesting fact: One bushel of field corn weighs 56 pounds
- Interesting fact: Each bushel used for ethanol produces 2.8 gallons of fuel, 18 pounds of dried distillers’ grains (a high protein livestock feed), 14 pounds of corn gluten pellets, 1.8 pounds of corn oil and 17 pounds of carbon dioxide (used in dry ice, the beverage industry, water treatment facilities and other applications).
- Interesting fact: In 2015, Kansas harvested 3.9 million acres that produced 580 million bushels of corn for grain