Corn is the most important agricultural crop in the New World. However, its amazing rise – from a common weed, to staple food and cultural icon of Native Americans, to modern hybrid cultivar, to versatile and ubiquitous component of processed food, to precursor of clothing and motor fuels, to pharmaceutical factory – is little known to students or the general public. Weed to Wonder tells the story of how human ingenuity transformed a common Mexican weed (teosinte) into a modern food wonder (maize).
The sequencing of the maize genome is a landmark in the history of plant biology and the largest single commitment to plant research in the history of the National Science Foundation. To commemorate the publication of the maize sequence we developed an interactive “e-book” that can be viewed as a website, an app, or a printable PDF.
Weed to Wonder shows the continuity of research on corn – from Native American agriculturalists to agricultural breeders, corn geneticists, plant physiologists, and molecular biologists – that culminated in the Maize Genome Sequencing Project. The interactive e-book uses over 150 animations, photographs, illustrations, interviews, and a time-lapse video to tell the story of the development of maize, from domestication, hybrid vigor, genome sequencing, and transposons, to genetic modification and biofortification of modern maize. The e-book revolves around footage from Mexico, interviews with prominent scientists, and animations of different approaches to sequencing the maize genome. The history of maize research is brought to life through reconstructions of George Shull and Barbara McClintock’s work at Cold Spring Harbor, rare photographs, and links to original publications and artifacts. The e-book also includes a time-lapse video of growing maize plants – from germination, through growth spurts, to pollination, senescence, and harvest.