Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 15, Issue 5, pp 1771–1795 | Cite as

Traditional Maize Storage Methods of Mayan Farmers in Yucatan, Mexico: Implications for Seed Selection and Crop Diversity

  • Luis Latournerie Moreno
  • John Tuxill
  • Elaine Yupit Moo
  • Luis Arias Reyes
  • Jairo Cristobal Alejo
  • Devra I. Jarvis


For small-scale farmers who maintain genetically diverse crop populations, aspects of the storage of their seeds and harvest may be just as important for successful farming as those related to productivity. The community of Yaxcaba, Yucatan, Mexico was studied to understand how the conditions under which Maya farmers store their maize harvests influence their seed selection practices and the diversity of maize varieties grown. Most farmers select their maize seed based primarily on ear characteristics and secondarily on grain characters. Farmers incorporate storability concerns by selecting for an archetypal healthy ear and by conducting selection in several steps between harvest and planting of the subsequent crop generation. Most farmers store their maize harvest in the husk, initially in the field and then in rustic granaries constructed of logs and palm thatch, in which farmers conserve separately their different seed lots. All local landrace populations show morphological adaptation (principally husk characteristics) for local storage conditions, indicating that storability has been an important selection pressure on traditional maize. Storability also appears to be a key factor working against the straightforward adoption of improved maize seed in Yaxcaba. Local farmers value many qualities of improved maize varieties, but their principal complaint is that improved maize cannot be conserved reliably under local storage conditions. Nearly all farmers who utilize improved seed stock in Yaxcaba grow locally adapted or ‘creolized’ versions of improved varieties, displaying characteristics of local maize landraces that facilitate their storage.


Maize Yucatec Maya Traditional agriculture Selection practices Seed storage systems Improved varieties 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Luis Latournerie Moreno
    • 1
  • John Tuxill
    • 2
  • Elaine Yupit Moo
    • 1
  • Luis Arias Reyes
    • 3
  • Jairo Cristobal Alejo
    • 1
  • Devra I. Jarvis
    • 4
  1. 1.Subdirección de Investigación y Graduados AgropecuariosInstituto Tecnológico Agropecuario de Conkal (SIGA-ITA2)ConkalMéxico
  2. 2.Joint Program in Economic BotanyYale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and the New York Botanical GardenNew HavenUSA
  3. 3.Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Avanzados del I.P.N.Unidad MéridaMéridaMéxico
  4. 4.International Plant Genetic Resources InstituteRomeItaly

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