After giving a talk at University of Nebraska a couple weeks ago, Cory Walters suggested the book The Hybrid Corn Makers: Prophets of Plenty written by Richard Crabb in 1947 (the whole book can be downloaded here). I’m a couple chapters in and it is already fascinating. The introduction (which explains hybrid corn) was written by HD Hughes, a professor who was at Iowa State College at the time.
I share this passage because there seems to be a common, modern view that "monoculture" cropping agriculture has led to a dramatic reduction in genetic diversity. I gave a talk last week to a large intro to food science class and talked a bit about biotechnology. One student asked me precisely this question: Don't GMOs reduce genetic diversity and thus make the entire system more vulnerable to disease, etc. But, as the above quote shows, even in the 1940s, there are many different types of corn in different locations, and that's true still today. I also pointed this out when responding to Nassim Taleb's claims about GMOs:
In any event, the first chapter of the book is an interesting discussion on the history of corn and how it spread across South and North America. Crabb writes: