They are looking for the seeds of the future

A Sagarpa-sponsored project tested drought-tolerant varieties of maize and wheat. Following the ancient tradition of domesticating, preserving, adapting and creating corn, from wild teosinte (which means God’s grain in Nahuatl) to the strongest and most resistant breeds, the International Center for the Improvement of Maize and Wheat (CIMMYT) is developing seeds of the future to deal with the effects of climate change present in Mexico, with a lack of rain and high temperatures.

With a germplasm bank that protects – like a bank vault – more than 27 thousand maize varieties and 120 thousand wheat samples, at a temperature of minus two degrees Celsius, CIMMYT searched for the most drought-tolerant collections as part of the “Discovering genetic diversity” component seeds“, from the Program for Sustainable Modernization of Traditional Agriculture, better known as MasAgro.

The project, sponsored by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (Sagarpa), tested each of the maize and wheat varieties in the field to offer scientists answers about the genetic patterns that allow plants to respond to heat and drought stress. water.

Félix San Vicente, Head of the International Maize Yield Enhancement Strategy, MasAgro, explained that once the seeds are sown, timely monitoring of the crop is carried out to identify trials that have less dry leaves, a long root to explore the soil in search of water and in in which an ear (female) and an ear (male) appear at the same time so that the grain bears abundantly. He emphasized that so far four thousand representative populations of autochthonous corn have been studied and the genetic map of slightly more than 3,600 varieties.

The doctor of genetics and plant improvement announced that thanks to good test results, drought-resistant seeds will be available in 2013. “We have MasAgro products that will be marketed next year with seed companies in Mexico. hybrids will already be commercially available”, he announced.

Once CIMMYT discovers the genetic characteristics that enable a plant to be drought tolerant, it reproduces the seed so that growers can take this material and transfer its advantages to other corn or wheat adapted to the conditions of the crop region. Cross-breeding is carried out, for example, in the case of maize, by planting two races or varieties together; The first so-called the “mother” ear, which the producers grow regularly, has the ear cut so that its ear (grain) receives only pollen from the “father” ear and takes on all the properties that scientists want to impart to it. , such as less senescence (more green tissue) or a longer root. The result of this natural mixture, which has been practiced for thousands of years, is a hybrid seed that contains the best traits of its parents.

Source: Excelsior

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