See First-Hand How Corn Has Evolved

As a summer intern at Latham Hi-Tech Seeds , one of my main projects is caring for the company’s Genetic Garden.  This isn’t your typical vegetable garden!  This garden will tell the story of how corn has evolved over time.

Planting the Genetic Garden at Latham Hi-Tech Seeds, with Corey Catt, Forage Specialist

Forage Products Manager Corey Catt and I on May 18 planted more than 45 different types of corn.  Our “living timeline” features the earliest ancestor of corn, teosinte, to the industry’s latest technology in LH 5494 3000GT.

The story of corn’s development starts with corn’s wild ancestor teosinte, but it doesn’t resemble corn as we know it.

Hand planting was required due to the small, delicate seed of teosinte

Further into the timeline, we’ve planted corn’s tropical ancestors including the Benz Tropical, Cargill Temperate Tropical and PIRICINCO composite varieties.

Ancestors of our modern day corn include:

  • Varieties of Flints (including Tama Flint from the Iowa Mesquaki Native American Tribe)
  • Reid Varieties (including Osterland Reid which originates from Iowa Falls, Iowa)
  • Golden Glow and Lancaster Sure Crop.  Reid and Lancaster Sure Crop varieties are, which are open-pollinated varieties first developed by U.S. farmers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • Minnesota 13, a variety developed at the University of Minnesota in 1897.  This variety was very well adapted for a short growing season and so important that it’s now grown across Minnesota.
  • Inbred varieties such as MO 17 and B73, which are very frequently used in many crosses.
  • Farther down the line of the evolution of corn are Ukrainian Dent and Ukrainian Flint Dent varieties
  • A 4-way cross variety
  • LH 74
  • LH 85
  • Two varieties of pod corn in which the seed is covered by a thin husk.  We removed the husk before planting to insure better seed-to-soil contact and thus better germination of the seed.

Pod Corn and husk.

In addition to these varieties, our Genetic Garden includes some fun varieties including popcorn and Japonica Striped Maize.  Japonica Striped Maize is an ornamental corn from Japan; its leaves are striped green, yellow, white and pink, providing a rainbow sort of color display.

Look for updates on the Genetic Garden on  We’d also like to invite you to see it for yourself!  Take a walk through our “living museum of corn” on Saturday, Aug. 25, during the Latham Country Fair.