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Maize (Zea mays) is today the most widely grown grain crop, with global production standing at just over one billion tons. This is 38% of total grain production, which amounts to 2,6 billion tons. (Wheat comes in second at about 750 million tons, and rice third at about 480 million tons).

In 2017, South African maize production was 17,5 million tons, an all-time record for the country. Maize is a warm-weather crop; it is unsuitable for areas with a mean daily temperature of below 19°C, or where the mean summer temperature falls below 23 °C.

Although the minimum temperature for germination is 10°C, germination will be faster and less variable at a soil temperature of 16°C to 18°C. At 20°C, maize should emerge within five to six days. Yield is reduced if the temperature reaches about 32°C.

At the other extreme, frost can damage maize at all growth stages, and a frost-free period of 120 to 140 days is required to prevent damage. A yield of 3,2t/ha requires between 350mm and 450mm of rain per annum. At maturity, each plant will have used 250ℓ of water in the absence of moisture stress.