Staircase Farms of the Ancients. National Geographic (1916)

Cuzco Corn
O F Cook

The usual behavior of the Cuzco corn in the United States is to produce plants of enormous size that mature very little seed, often none at all. It has been taken for granted that the size of the plants should be in proportion to the enormous kernels, and that our seasons were not long enough to permit this type of corn to mature.

But in Peru one does not see these gigantic, infertile plants, nor any indication that the corn crop requires a large amount of heat to bring it to maturity. The impression one gets from the Peruvian corn-fields is that the plants are not taller than with us and rather more slender, the most striking peculiarity being the prevailing red color of the foliage. The best development and largest ears of the Cuzco corn are found in some of the higher valleys, at elevations between 9,000 and 11,000 feet, in districts where the summer climate is cooler than in any of the corn-growing regions of the United States.

Thus it becomes apparent that the possibility of utilizing the Cuzco type of corn in the United States is still practically untried, because of our lack of information regarding the normal behavior of the plant and the natural conditions to which it is adapted. As might have been expected, if these facts had been known, the best results thus far obtained from the Cuzco corn in the United States have been in California, in the cool climate of the coast districts, where there is too little heat for our eastern varieties to thrive.