Latin America is the birthplace of maize and home to much of
its genetic diversity. Maize is a main staple food across the continent and
plays an important role in local culture and gastronomy. However, maize faces
many challenges, from climate change related stresses such as drought and heat
to emerging pests and diseases. Maize experts, as well as scientists from other
key crops, from around the world came together to discuss these challenges and
how to solve them at the 23rd Latin American Maize Reunion and 4th
Seed Congress, held October 7-10 in Monteria, Colombia.
Populations in Central America are rising rapidly, but staple crop production seems unable to keep up with increasing food demands.
Maize yields are particularly low compared to other regions. Cumulatively, farmers in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua produce maize on nearly 2.5 million hectares, with a large proportion of these maize systems also including beans, either through relay cropping or intercropping. Though potential yields are estimated to be as high as 10 metric tons per hectare, average production remains low at around 2.28.
Scientists mobilize African and Latin American knowledge to protect Asia’s maize.
By Vanessa Meadu
When the destructive fall armyworm arrived in Asia in the summer of 2018, scientists were not taken by surprise. They had been anticipating its arrival on the continent as the next stage of its aggressive eastward journey, driven by changing climatic conditions and international trade routes. The pest, native to North and South America, had invaded and spread throughout most of sub-Saharan Africa within two years, severely damaging billions of dollars of maize crops and threatening food security for millions of people. Asian countries would have to mobilize quickly to cope with this new threat.
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.