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.
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 new zinc-enriched maize hybrid developed for Colombia by
HarvestPlus with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)
and the CGIAR Research Program on Maize (MAIZE) will provide added nutrition
and financial security to rural farming families in the coffee-growing region
Left to right: Miguel Lengua, director general of Maxi Semillas S.A.S; Bram Govaerts, Latin America regional director at CIMMYT; Martin Kropff, CIMMYT director general; Howdy Bouis, interim HarvestPlus CEO; and Felix San Vicente, CIMMYT maize breeder at the launch of new biofortified zinc maize. Photo: Jennifer Johnson/CIMMYT.
A new zinc-enriched maize variety was released in Colombia on February 23 to help combat malnutrition in South America.
Zinc is an essential mineral that plays an important role in human development, but is not naturally produced by humans. Zinc deficiency can lead to impaired growth and development, respiratory infections, diarrheal disease and a general weakening of the immune system. In Colombia, an average of 22 percent of the population is affected by zinc deficiency. However in certain regions, such as the pacific coast and Amazonia, up to 65 percent of the population is deficient in zinc.