Only 20 years ago, the idea that maize could reduce vitamin A deficiency (VAD) would have been summarily dismissed. Agricultural scientists were focused on increasing yields and developing more robust varieties that could withstand the constant assault of new pests and diseases. The idea of making maize and other staple food crops more nutritious by breeding in vitamins and minerals, a process called biofortification, was a novel concept. However, with the launch of HarvestPlus in 2003, a collaborative research partnership was launched to bring together scientists across disciplines in an effort to reduce hidden hunger caused by micronutrient deficiencies. One of the fruits of this partnership were the world’s first “orange” maize varieties rich in vitamin A. This ‘orange’ vitamin A maize has been conventionally bred to provide higher levels of provitamin A carotenoids, a naturally occurring plant pigment also found in many orange foods such as mangoes, carrots and pumpkins, that the body then converts into vitamin A.
Posts Tagged ‘breeding’
Sub-Saharan African farmers typically apply less than 20 kilograms of fertilizer per hectare of cropland — far less than their peers in any other region of the world. In 2014, partners in the Improved Maize for African Soils (IMAS) project developed 41 Africa-adapted maize varieties that respond better to low amounts of nitrogen fertilizer and are up for release in nine African countries through 24 seed companies.
Frequent germplasm exchange between the Americas, Africa and Asia made maize the crop it is today. At one point in 2005, Brazilian elite breeding material was crossed with local Thai varieties, creating a breeding line that spread throughout Asia and even returned to predominate in southern USA.
For Walter Trevisan, Germplasm Enhancement of Maize (GEM) Steering Committee Chair, the transnational history of maize breeding offers several important lessons for maize breeders today.
Maize is rapidly emerging as a key crop in Asian food systems. 70 percent of the maize harvest in Asia feeds the prodigious growth of the livestock sector, showing that maize is central to growing prosperity and changing lifestyles in the continent.