Jala, in the Mexican state of Nayarit, is notable for having the world’s largest ears of corn. The same species can be grown in different sections of the country, but it does not grow as large.
In 2019, the farmer who grew the world’s largest ear of corn, Jess Nazario Elas Moctezuma, won the annual corn cob competition in Jala, Nayarit with a 39.5-centimeter-long cob. The runner-up fell short by only half a centimetre, and the majority of the other competitors were not far behind. They are all competing with ears of corn from the Jala landrace, a “giant” species famed for generating very massive ears of corn. Unfortunately, despite the size of its cobs, the Jala landrace has been losing ground to more mainstream species and is on the verge of extinction.
While 40-cm-long ears of corn are still considered enormous, they are no longer as long as they formerly were. A local farmer won the annual event in 2016 with a 45-cm-long cob, and scientific studies dating back to 1924 mention ears up to 60 centimetres long and plants up to 6 metres tall. However, as the number of farmers who grew it declined, so did the size of the ears.
“Because of its size and agronomic requirements, the Jala maize landrace is unsuitable for mechanisation,” socioeconomic researcher Carolina Camacho stated. “It must be sowed by hand, and the ears must be collected on horseback because the plant can grow to several metres or taller.”
Despite the size of its ears and the prized floury texture, the truth is that the Jala landrace is losing out to more competitive and profitable varieties. And as more farmers switch to other species, the unique genetic pedigree of this legendary species gets diluted.
The real tragedy is that simply exporting the Jala landrace to other states or even other areas of Nayarit won’t yield the same humongous ears of corn. The species is already grown in neighboring states like Sinaloa and Jalisco, as well as in other parts of Nayarit, but it just doesn’t grow as large as it does in Jala, at the foot of Ceboruco volcano.