Viviana López Ramírez uses her passion for biology to tackle
agricultural challenges in her adopted country, Argentina. Originally from
Medellin, Colombia, she forms part of a multidisciplinary team at the Institute
of Agro-biotechnical Research (INIAB) at the National University of Río Cuarto,
Argentina working to isolate and identify pathogenic microorganisms in maize in
order to identify resistant lines for farmers. Viviana was recently awarded the
MAIZE Youth Innovators Award 2019 – Latin America in the category of Researcher
for her involvement in this work.
The awards, an initiative of the CGIAR Research Program on Maize (MAIZE), seek to recognize the contributions of young women and men who are implementing innovations in Latin American maize-based agri-food systems. This is the third instalment of the awards, following Asia in October 2018 and Africa in May 2019. The awards ceremony took place at the 23rd Latin American Maize Reunion in Monteria, Colombia on October 9, 2019.
A report by CIMMYT maize scientists highlights the benefits, both current and potential, of doubled haploid (DH) technology in a recent article published in Theoretical and Applied Genetics.
The word haploid
indicates that the cells in a plant has half the number of chromosomes as its
parent. Haploids occur very rarely in maize but their frequency can be
increased significantly by using haploid inducers, which are specific
genotypes of maize with defects in their pollen. Haploids can be separated from
diploids using several phenotypic markers at the seed or seedling stage.
Haploids are sterile, so they must undergo chromosome doubling in order to
begin meiosis and reproduce. Doubled haploids are formed through the
spontaneous or artificial duplication of chromosomes in identified
CIMMYT scientists have
laid out several objectives for the future of doubled haploid breeding in this
report. Focus areas involve improving the haploid induction rate (HIR),
improving the speed and accuracy of haploid identification, increasing the
chromosomal doubling rates and improving the seed yield from doubled haploid
plants. Various methods to achieve these improvements are outlined in the
The DH process is
invaluable in maize breeding because it cuts the time required to breed
targeted varieties significantly. Because of this, seeds of improved varieties
can be developed and sent out to consumers quickly and efficiently. The global
need for maize as food and feed is increasing. CIMMYT works to keep up with
this demand and provide food for all who need it.
Step into supermarkets or restaurants in many parts of
Mexico City and surrounding towns and you might see products made from blue
maize – products which would not have been available just a few years ago. From
blue corn chips to maize-based Mexican dishes such as blue tortillas and blue tamales,
a beloved staple crop has taken on a new hue. But should breeders, millers,
processors or farmer organizations invest in expanding the production of blue
maize and blue maize products? Are consumers really interested, and are they
willing to pay more?
These are some of the questions asked by researchers at the
International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico. They set
up a choice experiment study on blue maize tortillas to test consumer
preferences and willingness to pay for this product.
A recent study by the International Food Policy Research Institute
estimates that rainfed maize yields in countries in northern Central America
are at the highest risk of crop loss as a result of climate change in the
Maize crops occupy more than 36% of total cultivated land in
Central America and almost 19% in the Andean countries. IFPRI’s study examined
potential impacts of climate change through the year 2050. According to the
results, Costa Rica is expected to suffer the hardest blow to maize yields, at
an almost 17% loss, with Honduras following behind at around 12%.