Posts Tagged ‘Biofortification’

Insights into breeding strategies for biofortification of maize with zinc and provitamin A

by Carolyn Cowan

Biofortification is at the forefront of efforts to address hidden hunger, the consumption of a sufficient number of calories, but still lacking essential nutrients such as vitamin A, iron or zinc.  Biofortification increases the amount of vitamins and minerals in a crop through conventional plant breeding or agronomic practices, and can generate measurable health and nutrition improvements in consumer populations. Researchers from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) have recently published two studies that comprehensively review current breeding strategies for biofortification of maize with zinc and provitamin A that provide a working outline for maize breeders. The provitamin A study was developed with researchers from the University of Agriculture Faisalabad, Pakistan.

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.

India’s first provitamin-A QPM maize hybrid: Vignesh Muthusamy

Vignesh Muthusamy was recently awarded the 2018 MAIZE-Asia Youth Innovators Award from the from the CGIARResearch Program on Maize (MAIZE) for his work on the development of biofortified provitamin A and quality protein maize (QPM) maize hybrids. A specialist in maize genetics and breeding, his research demonstrates the use of modern biotechnological tools in crop improvement. Vignesh is from a farming community in the Namakkal district in Tamil Nadu and isa scientist in the Division of Genetics, ICAR-Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi. In a recent interview, he discussed the challenges and opportunities facing maize in Asia, as well as the importance of nutrition and involving young people in maize-based systems.

Vignesh Muthusamy, one of the winners of the 2018 MAIZE-Asia Youth Innovators Award, speaks at the 13th Asian Maize Conference in Ludhiana, India. Photo: Manjit Singh/Punjab Agricultural University.

Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in maize-based systems?

I hail from a farming family and due to India being an agrarian-based economy, most of the rural household is involved in agriculture. Lack of access of nutritious food is one of the primary challenges causing severe socio-economic loss in the country and maize,with such diverse end uses as food and feed can serve as an effective means of delivering a nutritious diet while bolstering the economy.

Reflections on the global impact of biofortification

by Carolyn Cowan

Over two billion people across the world suffer from hidden hunger, the consumption of a sufficient number of calories, but still lacking essential nutrients such as vitamin A, iron or zinc. This can lead to severe health damage, blindness, or even death, particularly among children under the age of five. Furthermore, a recent FAO report estimates the number of undernourished people worldwide at over 800 million, with severe food insecurity and undernourishment increasing in almost all sub-regions of Africa, as well as across South America.