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Title: Agronomic and kernel compositional traits of blue maize landraces from the southwestern United States

item NANKAR, AMOL - New Mexico State University
item GRANT, LOIS - New Mexico State University
item Scott, Marvin
item PRATT, RICH - New Mexico State University

Submitted to: Crop Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/10/2016
Publication Date: 3/22/2016
Citation: Nankar, A., Grant, L., Scott, M.P., Pratt, R. 2016. Agronomic and kernel compositional traits of blue maize landraces from the southwestern United States. Crop Science. doi: 10.2135/cropsci2015.12.0773.

Interpretive Summary: Maize has been cultivated in the Southwestern United States since prehistoric times. Varieties that produce blue grain have important cultural significance because blue corn has historically been used to make food for ceremonies and special occations. Little effort has been made to characterize or improve these vareities since the development of modern plant breeding methods. Blue corn is growing in popularity in the US and abroad where it is used to make novelty food products such as blue corn chips. In addition, the blue color is caused by pigments that are belived to have health benefits. The objective of this study was to compare grain compositon and agronomic properties of a group of blue corn varieites developed in the Southwestern US by indiginous populations. Plant breeders will use this information to develop stratgies for improving blue corn for modern corn production systems as well as preserving the cultural heritage represented in the unimproved versions of these varieites.

Technical Abstract: Multiple races of maize have been cultivated for centuries in the southwestern USA and northern Mexico. These landraces, used primarily for human food consumption, display considerable genetic variation for traits such as kernel color and texture. Traditional cultivation of these landraces has declined overall, but blue maize has received increasing commercial interest. Our objectives were to evaluate grain yield, agronomic and morphological traits, and analyze the kernel biochemical composition of six blue and purple southwestern USA landraces representative of regional diversity. Comparisons were made with selected open-pollinated populations derived from southwestern and also Corn Belt blue maize across several New Mexico locations in both 2012 and 2013. Biochemical composition of amino acids, oil, protein, starch, fatty acids, crude fiber, ash and pigment content were determined. Across all locations and years, grand mean of grain yield for all accessions was 2.27 Mg/ha. A Navajo Blue accession was the highest yielding, and a Hopi Blue accession, the lowest yielding accession across all locations and years. The majority of southwestern landraces displayed higher oil content, and two displayed higher protein content than Corn Belt Dent maize. Little variation in amino acid content was observed. Considerable morphological variation existed for plant, ear, and kernel traits consistent with the presence of several races, and or of racial admixtures. Yields were low as anticipated; however, variation in oil, protein and diverse amino acids combined with elevated anti-oxidants may provide superior dietary nutrition.