Creole maize reveals adaptation secrets
An international team of scientists identified a hundred genes that influence adaptation to the latitude, altitude, growing season and flowering time of nearly 4,500 native maize varieties in Mexico and in almost all Latin American and Caribbean countries.
Maize breeders benefit from using drones
Using drone technology could cut labour and costs spent in collecting data for maize breeding by at least ten per cent, preliminary findings of a project shows.
Maize engineered to silence deadly toxins in poisonous mould
It’s a silent killer lurking in common foods. A carcinogenic toxin made by mould kills thousands around the world and forces millions of tonnes of infected crops to be discarded each year.
But a new approach could turn off production of the poison even when mould does grow on the crops.
Hybrid plant breeding: Secrets behind haploid inducers, a powerful tool in maize breeding
A common strategy to create high-yielding plants is hybrid breeding. However, getting the inbred lines in the first place can be a hassle. In maize, the use of so-called 'haploid inducers' provides a short cut to this cumbersome procedure, allowing to produce inbred lines in just one generation. A study now sheds light on the genetics behind haploid induction.
Maize study finds genes that help crops adapt to change
A new study, published Feb. 6 in Nature Genetics, has analysed close to 4,500 maize varieties – called landraces – bred and grown by farmers from 35 countries in the Americas to identify more than 1,000 genes driving large-scale adaptation to the environment.
Mutant maize offers key to understanding plant growth
How plant cells divide and how that contributes to plant growth has been one of the longstanding unsolved mysteries of cell biology. Two conflicting ideas have fueled the mystery.
Fresh approach gives boost to maize yields
A north Wales dairy farm milking 430 cows and which is heavily reliant on maize silage undertook an overhaul of the agronomy of the 2016 crop which resulted in a massive increase in average yield from 15 tonnes to 21 tonnes per acre.
Blue maize may help protect against metabolic syndrome
A new study by researchers suggested that blue corn may have the potential to protect against such conditions by treating or even preventing metabolic syndrome.
Pigeon peas are good sidekicks for Malawi’s maize
Planting pigeon peas alongside maize in Malawi could improve crop yields and address gaps in both local nutrition and food supply, new research suggests.
Armyworm invading Zambian maize fields
Multiple maize fields in Zambia have gone under the perilous attack of pests, known as Army Worms. If not controlled, the consequences of this attack could be quite severe on Zambian agriculture and food security. Therefore, authorities asked for Air force immediate intervention to save maize crops.
Researchers discover you really can hear corn grow
There’s an old farmer’s tale that says, “On a quiet night you can hear the corn grow.”
It may seem funny, but Douglas Cook at New York University and colleagues Roger Elmore and Justin McMechan, at the University of Nebraska were able to use contact microphones to directly record the sounds of corn growing.
Researchers use nuclear methods to study pest-resistance in corn
According to estimates, the current global population is more than 7.4 billion people and is growing at a rate of 88 million people per year. Developing corn varieties that are resistant to pests is vital to sustain the estimated 9 billion global population by 2050. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri, using advanced nuclear methods, have determined the mechanisms corn plants use to combat the western corn rootworm, a major pest threatening the growth of the vital food source.
30% of total English maize crop goes for anaerobic digestion
Almost 30% of all maize grown in England now goes for anaerobic digestion, according to new government figures released on 8th December, meaning that 1% of all arable land in England is now used to grow maize for AD plants.
The effect of maize cutting height on cows
By increasing the maize cutting height to 30-40 cm compared to the classic height of 15 cm could lead to forage with a higher dry matter digestibility. This can be beneficial for feeding high producing cows.
Researchers identify genes for 'Help me!' aromas from corn
When corn seedlings are nibbled by caterpillars, they defend themselves by releasing scent compounds that attract parasitic wasps whose larvae consume the caterpillar—but not all corn varieties are equally effective at giving the chemical signal for help.
Researchers at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg in Germany, Cornell University and the Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) used 26 corn varieties to identify genes responsible for sending out this "Help Me!" signal to parasitic wasps.
Zimbabwean scientists unveil maize seeds resistant to heat and drought
Scientists in Zimbabwe say they have developed new heat- and drought-tolerant varieties of maize that may be ready for sale ahead of the next planting season.
What's causing black "dusty" corn?
Growers are reporting the appearance of black to gray discoloration or “dust” on corn plants. In some cases, large amounts of black “dust” have been reported from combines during harvest, sometimes looking like a cloud of smoke following the combine. The large amount of microscopic spores produced by some fungi can cause this phenomenon.
Soil management may help stabilize maize yield in the face of climate change
How will we feed our growing population in the face of an increasingly extreme climate? Many experts suggest the answer lies in breeding novel crop varieties that can withstand the increases in drought, heat, and extreme rainfall events predicted in the not-too-distant future. But breeding is only part of the equation, according to new research.
Maize genetics may show how crops adapt to climate change
With the onset of climate change and changes in irrigation, adapting food crops to grow in diverse environments could help feed the world. Now University of California, Davis, scientists are leading a major new project, funded by the National Science Foundation with $4.1 million over five years, to study genetic adaptation to different environments in maize.
Bacterial leaf streak makes an appearance in 2016
Bacterial leaf streak (BLS), a foliar disease of corn caused by the bacterium Xanthomonas vasicola pv. vasculorum, was reported in the US for the first time in Nebraska and has since been found in several other states out west, including Kansas, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, South Dakota, Texas and Oklahoma. It has not yet been found in Ohio and neighboring states.
New maize variety promises better harvest
A new maize variety that is quick-maturing and capable of withstanding high heat and water stress environments while still giving bountiful returns has been launched.
Disease destroys North Rift maize crop
An outbreak of a maize disease has left many farmers in the North Rift uncertain of their harvests putting the country’s food security at risk.
Cowpea, for sustainable maize and millet production
Agricultural Research study has revealed, especially to the farming community in the Gambia and beyond, that the use of Cowpea, vigna unguiculata as cover crop is potential for soil nutrient for sustainable maize and millet production.
Pioneer is growing its hybrid corn seed scheme further into Africa
Dupont's Pioneer unit hopes to expand its hybrid corn seed partnership with African governments and aid groups, to Tanzania, after setting up programmes for farmers to use its seed in Ethiopia and Zambia.
Corn advocate wants to save popcorn maize
Several native breeds of corn have nearly lost the battle against more profitable strains and while their nutritional value may be similar, it is their sentimental and cultural importance that make them worth preserving in the eyes of one Mexican businessman.
Crop committee keeps 2016 maize forecast unchanged
South Africa will likely harvest 7.16 million tonnes of maize in 2016, unchanged from a previous estimate as weather conditions remained stable, a government agency said on Tuesday. The forecast by the Crop Estimates Committee (CEC), its sixth of this season, was 28% lower than the 9.95 million tonnes reaped last year because of drought and late plantings.
'Amazing protein diversity' is discovered in the maize plant
The genome of the corn plant - or maize, as it's called almost everywhere except the US - "is a lot more exciting" than scientists have previously believed. So says the lead scientist in a new effort to analyze and annotate the depth of the plant's genetic resources.
Rye cover crops can increase armyworm damage in corn
A new study from researchers at Iowa State University found that using rye as a cover crop in cornfields can lead to increased populations of true armyworm (Mythimna unipuncta) in the corn, as well as increased defoliation. Cover crops are typically considered to be beneficial. However, this study, which was published in the Journal of Economic Entomology, suggests that cover crops can actually do some harm by leading to an increase in insect damage. Preventing this negative effect of cover crops could lead to changes in farming practices.
Corn, soybeans may need earlier irrigation after late planting
Late-planted corn and soybean crops may be reaching a critical stage of development just as the weather is turning drier and could require earlier irrigation, says Lyndon Kelley, irrigation specialist for the Purdue and Michigan State Extension services.
Maize farmer ‘beats the heat’
Even as several maize farmers are upset over withered crops due to extremely hot conditions, a farmer in Tirupur district is showing how adopting progressive farming practices can ‘beat the heat,’ and reap success by cultivating maize.
S. Shanmugasundaram (65), a multi-crop farmer from Karapalayam village who always looked for innovations over the past four-decades, tried out a new hybrid, heat-resistant seed variety of maize developed at the State Seed Farm in Pongalur, and followed certain creative agronomic procedures, to get rich dividends.
Scientists detect pest disease on maize
Soil Scientists, Prof. Lateef Taiwo and his team at the Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IAR&T), Ibadan, have detected Armyworms devastating maize farms around South-West ecology.
Researchers identify critical factors that determine drought vulnerability of wheat and maize
Researchers led by Lixin Wang, assistant professor of earth sciences in the School of Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, have identified critical information about the environmental variables and agronomic factors that determine the vulnerability of maize and wheat production to drought.
Better corn in our future: Meaningful part of maize genome identified
Using a genetic mapping technique developed at Florida State University, FSU and Cornell University researchers have shown that a small percentage of the entire maize genome is responsible for almost half of a plant's trait diversity.
Nigeria to plant vitamin A biofortified cassava and maize this year
The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole said on [May 7] that the ministry embarked on vitamin A food bio-fortification to reduce death rate and boost nutrition in the country.
Maize harvest faster in good weather
District maize harvesters are rapt with how their season is going and, thanks to the dry weather, the maize is drying out for harvest quicker than usual for this time of year.
It is estimated 50,000 tonnes of grain maize will be picked around Gisborne, Wairoa and East Coast in New Zealand this season.
Adaptation of agriculture to the challenges posed by climate change
Mitigation of the environmental impact of agriculture to reduce further climate change
Enhanced security both of the food supply for a growing population and of the livelihoods of the millions of smallholders producing most of the world’s crops and livestock
To achieve these goals, the cultivation of staple crops such as maize needs to achieve ‘more with less’ i.e. to increase output but with fewer inputs if it is to be truly sustainable. The answer to what seems a paradox lies in agriculture becoming smarter. Research is focussing on the various ways of achieving this.
Climate-smart research topics under the heading of ‘Adaptation’ include:
Improving climate risk prediction in maize cultivation
Advances in our understanding of plant physiology e.g. the ways plants respond and adapt to environmental stresses
Protecting the genetic diversity of maize, for example by conserving and exploiting wild species which may be better suited to harsher environments
Developing new varieties of maize able to respond to the effects of climate change e.g. heat and drought-tolerant maize varieties
Topics under the ‘Mitigation’ heading include:
Developing higher-yield maize varieties or, for example, varieties with improved nitrogen uptake Defining and implementing good agricultural practice in sustainable maize cultivation
Precision farming techniques to make more efficient use of inputs such as water or fertiliser (e.g. site-specific nutrient management)
Ways of maintaining soil health for more sustainable, low-input cultivation (e.g. zero-till cultivation, mulching, crop rotations, intercropping such as maize-legume systems)
Advances in drying and storage of harvested maize to reduce post-harvest losses (e.g. lowcost pest-proof hermetic storage grain silos)
Topics under the heading of ‘Enhanced security’ include:
Bio-fortification to improve the nutritional value of maize
Improving the protein, starch and oil content of maize to add value to the crop
Understanding and overcoming market and other constraints in the take-up of new techniques in maize cultivation in developing countries
Ways of supporting smallholders in maize cultivation such as access to new varieties
Regional strategies for supporting smallholder cultivation in in Africa, Asia and South America
Topics which cut across more than one category include:
Breeding: both ‘conventional’ techniques, such as cross-breeding hybrid varieties and doubled haploid (DH) breeding technology, or the use of new genetic techniques, such as marker-assisted breeding and genome wide selection (GWS)
Pests and diseases, ranging from advances in pest and disease-resistant maize varieties to integrated pest management (IPM) and biological control strategies for the control of maize pests such as push-pull technology
Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing is supporting this research in a number of ways. These include an innovative new subject page for maize , with a range of useful information for researchers, and a major two-volume review of key research trends in maize (edited by Dr David Watson - CGIAR Maize Research Program Manager):
Achieving sustainable cultivation of maize Volume 1: From improved varieties to local applications Achieving sustainable cultivation of maize Volume 2: Cultivation techniques, pest and disease control
See (here) for further details of what promises to be a standard work in its field. Together we hope to achieve the goal of truly climate-smart maize cultivation.
A version of this blog with supporting references can be found here
The concept of climate-smart agriculture involves reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture whilst enhancing food security, nutrition and productivity. It has been estimated that agriculture is responsible for 10-12% of greenhouse gas emissions. However, this figure rises as high as 24% if forestry and other land use is included, taking into account such factors as deforestation to clear land for more crops and livestock.
Maize is a good example of both the challenges faced by agriculture and the ways those challenges can be addressed. It has been estimated that yields of cereals such as maize need to increase by 2.4% per year to meet rising demand. However, yields must increase without contributing further to global warming, not least because maize is particularly vulnerable to more extreme weather conditions (such as drought) associated with climate change.
The ‘Push-pull’ cropping system is one solution to this challenge. Jointly developed by The International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), Rothamsted Research and other partners, the system uses companion cropping (e.g. of grasses) with maize to reduce insect pests and weeds, sustainably improving maize yields whilst providing other benefits to smallholders.
Maize yields can be substantially reduced by pests such as stem borer moth larvae and the parasitic Striga weed, as well as by other factors such as poor soil quality.
The ‘Push-pull’ system involves:Planting ‘push’ plants like the legume Desmodium, which uses smell to deter stem borers, in between rows of maize.
Planting ‘pull’ plants like Napier Grass, which attracts moths away from maize, around the main crop.
The grass emits a glue which traps the insects.
In addition, the roots of Desmodium emit a selective herbicide which inhibits the growth of the roots of the parasitic Striga weed. The plant also fixes nitrogen which contributes to improving soil fertility which can itself be a significant factor in reducing yields. It also acts as a protective covering for the soil, retaining moisture and reducing soil erosion. Finally, both the Desmodium and Napier Grass can be used as forage for cattle.
The system is currently being used by almost 70,000 farmers in Africa. Levels of Striga and stem borer infestation have been dramatically reduced whilst maize yields have more than doubled in some cases. The most recent development is to assess the use of the system in drier areas using plants such as drought-tolerant Brachiaria grass so that it can adapt to future climate change.
The forthcoming Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing programme includes comprehensive reviews of these and other ways of achieving sustainable maize cultivation.
A version of this blog with supporting references can be found here