Mystery Image Contest: November 3-17, 2014


Flint corn, also known as Indian corn, is a type of maize. Archaeologists have discovered that certain North American indigenous cultures have cultivated maize since 1000 BCE. Native peoples used maize to produce hominy, an important staple crop during pre-Columbian times. When European explorers landed in the Americas, they brought back with them a number of crops, including maize, tomatoes, and potatoes, and introduced them to other parts of the world. Maize in particular flourished to become the world's most-produced crop by weight today: maize is a hardy crop with a low water content, able to thrive in a variety of climates from China to India. The United States is still by far the largest producer of maize, growing over 40% of the world's harvest. Most of this harvest is used for livestock feed and producing ethanol, while a minority of it is intended for human consumption in the form of high fructose corn syrup and corn-based foods like grits and cereals.


This image is of an ear of Indian corn.

Photo Credit

Steve Snodgrass via Wikimedia Commons

Winning Entry

Kimberly Wilson
Souderton Area High School
Souderton, PA

For Educators

Teaching Support

Learning about food, where it comes from and how it gets to our tables, is an important part of any student’s science education. The “Future of Food” is the theme for this year’s National Geography Awareness Week, from November 16-22. This focus on food helps you and your students explore issues related to not only what we eat, but also environmental and societal issues, as well as cultural ones. For instance, how we grow our food, from the techniques used to plant crops to the chemicals used to control insects and weeds, has a huge impact on our environment. The EPA has estimated that in 2007, the amount of pesticides used in the United States was 5,085 million pounds. What effect does this have on our environment? In recent years, the whole question of genetically modified plants—are they beneficial or harmful—has taken on significance for many people. At the same time, there has been a growing movement of people who turn to locally and organically grown food to meet their nutritional needs.

You could couple your examination of food with our celebration this month of Native American Heritage Month and look at the impact that Native American agricultural practices have had on our eating habits.

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Science NetLinks Mystery Image Contest Rules and Regulations

What Is the

Mystery Image Contest?

The Mystery Image Contest offers the chance to identify a science-related object based on a close-up picture of it.