Scientists agree maize originated in Mexico thousands of years ago. CIMMYT/ Peter Lowe
For Mexicans, the “children of corn,” maize is entwined in life, history and tradition. It is not just a crop; it is central to their identity.
Even today, despite political and economic policies that have led Mexico to import one-third of its maize, maize farming continues to be deeply woven into the traditions and culture of rural communities. Furthermore, maize production and pricing are important to both food security and political stability in Mexico.
One of humanity’s greatest agronomic achievements, maize is the most widely produced crop in the world. According to the head of CIMMYT’s maize germplasm bank, senior scientist Denise Costich, there is broad scientific consensus that maize originated in Mexico, which is home to a rich diversity of varieties that has evolved over thousands of years of domestication.
By Brenda Wawa and Johnson Siamachira
For International Women’s Day 2016, CIMMYT and MAIZE celebrate women farmers in Africa, who through their resilience, bravery and commitment have weathered challenges in maize farming to put food on the table. These women contribute to enhancing agricultural growth and food security.
Valeria and her daughters and part of their bountiful maize harvest from ‘ngamia’ seed.
Photographer: CIMMYT/Brenda Wawa
Purple maize varieties with high anthocyanin accumulation can have significant nutritional and economic value, but cannot be identified using the R1-nj marker.
Doubled haploid (DH) technology provides important benefits to maize breeding programs, as DH lines enhance genetic gains and improve breeding efficiency in addition to offering significant economic advantages. DH lines can be generated in less than half as many seasons as lines generated through traditional breeding, thus saving valuable time, resources and energy. The large scale production of DH lines is dependent on the identification of haploids at an early seedling stage. Haploids have traditionally been identified by the R1-nj (Navajo) anthocyanin color marker which, when crossed with haploid inducer lines through induction crosses, will produce haploid progeny seed with purple markings on its outer layer, or pericarp. This is to differentiate haploid from diploid seedlings, which are not useful for DH breeding.
Dr. Abdur Rahman Beshir, CIMMYT maize improvement and seed systems specialist, speaking at the introduction of new, high-yield maize varieties at NARC in Islamabad. Photo: Sana Jamal
Several new high-yield maize varieties have been introduced for commercial use in Pakistan this past week, lauded as the “first ever type of maize innovation in Pakistan,” according to the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) Maize Improvement and Seed System Specialist, Dr. Abdur Rahman Beshir. The varieties, which were developed by CIMMYT, can yield as much as 10 tons per hectare.