IITA scientists recommend packaging and storage for yellow-seeded maize flour

Research has shown that compared to other packaging and storage facilities, polyvinyl plastic containers (PPC) and dark compartment storage have the highest retention of Pro-vitamin A carotenoid (pVAC) and xanthophylls in yellow-seeded maize.

Pro-vitamin A carotenoid (pVAC) foods contribute to the reduction of vitamin A deficiency diseases within the human body. Yellow-seeded maize flour, being a pVAC-rich food, needs the right packaging materials and storage conditions that retain pVAC as it is essential for health benefits.

Community-led conservation: saving a giant landrace

by Carolyn Cowan

Within a lush and humid valley in the state of Nayarit on Mexico’s Pacific coast, a giant resides. The local maize landrace, named ‘Jala’ after the valley in which it grows, produces the biggest maize ears in the world. Its plants grow to such a height the only way to harvest the ears is on horseback. However, despite its vigor and size, the survival of this landrace is at risk as its genetic diversity fades and young people who might carry on growing traditions leave the rural land looking for a better life.

A new maize festival, the Feria de la Mazorca del Maiz Nativo, or Native Maize Festival, was launched on December 10, 2018 in the town of Coapan, which adjoins the valley’s namesake town of Jala. The festival aims to improve this remarkable landrace’s future by encouraging farmers to protect its genetic potential and creating a space for young people to have their views heard. The festival is a collaboration between Denise Costich, head of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) maize gene bank, Carolina Camacho of CIMMYT’s socioeconomics program, Victor Vidal of INIFAP-Nayarit and local partners including Gilberto Gonzalez, Ricardo Cambero, Alondra Maldonado, Ismael Elias, Renato Olmedo (CIMMYT), and Miguel Gonzalez Lomelí.

Biofortification of maize with provitamin A can reduce aflatoxin load

by Carolyn Cowan

New research evidence could have significant implications for breeding approaches to combat harmful aflatoxin contamination in maize while simultaneously contributing to alleviate vitamin A deficiency. The study ‘Provitamin A Carotenoids in Grain Reduce Aflatoxin Contamination of Maize While Combating Vitamin A Deficiency’ is the first published report to document how biofortification – the process by which staple crops are bred to increase micronutrient content in their edible parts to address hidden hunger – with provitamin A (proVA) can contribute to reduce aflatoxin contamination in maize, thereby addressing two major health concerns.

Maize infected with the fungus Aspergillus flavus, causing ear rot and producing aflatoxins. Photo: George Mahuku/CIMMYT.

Aflatoxins are harmful compounds that are produced by the fungus Aspergillus flavus, which can be found in the soil, plants and grain of a variety of legumes and cereals including maize. Toxic to humans and animals, aflatoxins are associated with liver and other cancers and weakened immune systems that result in increased burden of disease, micronutrient deficiencies, and stunting or underweight development in children.

International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2019

Overall, women account for only 28 percent of the world’s researchers according to data from the UN. Over the past 15 years, the global community has made a lot of effort to inspire and engage women and girls in science. However, a significant gender gap persists at all levels of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, and women and girls continue to be excluded from participating fully in science.

Science and gender equality are both vital for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals and the UN sustainable development agenda.