Another study led by team member Jeff Ross-Ibarra from the University of California, Davis gives an extraordinary glimpse into how corn evolved more than 8,700 years ago from a wild grass in the lowland areas of southwestern Mexico into today's ubiquitous international commodity.
The researchers compared wild varieties with traditional corn varieties from across the Americas and with modern improved breeding lines. They identified hundreds of genes that played a role in the transformation of corn from its wild origins to today's cultivated crop and show how that transition was largely achieved by ancient farmers who first domesticated it thousands of years ago.
Last year, the economic value of the U.S. corn crop was $76 billion, with U.S. growers producing an estimated 12 billion bushels, more than a third of the world's supply. Corn is the largest production crop worldwide, providing food for billions of people and livestock and critical feedstock for production of biofuels.