Zea mexicana (Schrad.) Reeves and Mangelsd.




Euchlaena mexicana Schrad.

Common names

Teosinte (United States, Australia), malchari (India), maizillo (South America).


Culms tufted, 1 to 3 m tall; leaf-blades similar to maize (Zea mays); seeds or hardened joints of the pistillate rachis triangular or trapezoidal, smooth and bony, whitish (Hitchcock, 1930).


Originated in Mexico, but introduced to many parts of the world.

Season of growth


Rainfall requirements

It requires a good rainfall, in the annual range of 750-1 250 mm.

Drought tolerance

It will not tolerate droughts.

Soil requirements

It requires a fertile soil, but has a wide tolerance of soil texture.

Ability to spread naturally

It does not spread readily.

Land preparation for establishment

A well-prepared seed-bed is preferred.

Sowing methods

Seed is drilled or hoed into rows 90-100 cm apart.

Sowing depth and cover

7-10 cm depth, well covered with soil.

Sowing time and rate

Early summer, at 10 to 60 kg/ha.

Number of seeds per kg.

15 400 (United States).

Grazing management

It is commonly cut for green fodder, usually with two cuts a season, occasionally more.

Dry-matter and green-matter yields

Up to 70 tonnes green fodder per hectare from four to five cuts. In the Dominican Republic it has yielded 14 600 kg/ha green fodder and in the Philippines 29 900 kg/ha (Panikkar, 1951).

Suitability for hay and silage

It is commonly cut and fed green, but makes quite good silage.

Frost tolerance

It cannot endure frosts.

Maximum germination and quality required for sale

50 percent germinable seed and 98.5 percent purity in Queensland.

Response to photoperiod

It flowers in short day lengths (Evans, Wardlaw & Williams, 1964).

Chemical analysis and digestibility

Panikkar (1951) records 4.46 percent crude protein, 32.2 percent crude fibre, 10.8 percent ash, 1.2 percent ether extract and 51.34 percent nitrogen-free extract, with 1.07 percent CaO and 0.36 percent P2O5 in the dry matter of a sample from Bihar, India. An Australian analysis revealed 7.27 percent crude protein, 27.67 percent crude fibre 7.03 percent ash, 1.39 percent ether extract and 53.75 percent nitrogen-free extract.

Fertilizer requirements

Needs a complete fertilizer.

Compatibility with other grasses and legumes

It is often sown with legumes such as velvet bean and soybean to enhance its feed value.

Genetics and reproduction

2n=20 (Fedorov, 1974). It hybridizes readily with maize and is used in breeding work to provide multiple cob production and increased tillers.

Further reading

Panikkar, 1951.