by Carolyn Cowan
Scientists track down the families in Morelos, Mexico, who donated maize landraces to CIMMYT in 1966-67. Would they still be cultivating them?
Maize is more than a crop in Mexico. While it provides food, feed and raw materials, it is also a bloodline running through the generations, connecting Mexico’s people with their past.
The fascinating diversity of maize in Mexico is rooted in its cultural and biological legacy as the center of origin of maize. Landraces, which are maize varieties that have been cultivated and subjected to selection by farmers for generations, retaining a distinct identity and lacking formal crop improvement, provide the basis of this diversity.
As with any cultural legacy, the cultivation of maize landraces can be lost with the passage of time as farmers adapt to changing markets and generational shifts take place.
Doctoral candidate Denisse McLean-Rodríguez, from the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Italy, and researchers from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) have undertaken a new study that traces the conservation and abandonment of maize landraces over the last 50 years in Morelos, Mexico’s second smallest state.
The study is based on a collection of 93 maize landrace samples, collected by Ángel Kato as a research assistant back in 1966-67 and stored in CIMMYT’s Maize Germplasm Bank. Researchers traced the 66 families in Morelos who donated the samples and explored the reasons why they abandoned or conserved their landraces.