Economic Botany

, Volume 67, Issue 2, pp 98–109 | Cite as

Variation of Kernel Anthocyanin and Carotenoid Pigment Content in USA/Mexico Borderland Land Races of Maize

  • Si Hwan Ryu
  • Lindsay Werth
  • Suzanne Nelson
  • Joseph C. Scheerens
  • Richard C. Pratt


Variation of Kernel Anthocyanin and Carotenoid Pigment Content in USA/Mexico Borderland Land Races of Maize. Maize is the only major cereal crop that displays abundant variation for health-promoting carotenoid and anthocyanin pigments. Traditional farmers in the USA/Mexico Borderland region utilize many land race varieties with diverse kernel characteristics reflecting enculturated preferences, including color. Food prepared using these varieties may provide benefits to human health, but the kernel pigment content, and grain physical and compositional traits, have not been characterized. Seed from 48 diverse accessions representing 18 races of maize originating from the Borderland region were obtained from Native Seeds/SEARCH and planted in replicated nurseries at two locations (Ohio and Arizona) in 2008. We visually determined kernel color and quantified total carotenoid and anthocyanin pigment content of samples obtained from these nurseries using spectrophotometric analysis. Nonpigmented (white) followed by yellow kernel colors were most abundant. Populations with high carotenoid pigment content (i.e., above 40 μg/g) were not observed, whereas many accessions produced ears with mixtures of red, purple, and blue kernels containing anthocyanin pigments. A wide range in anthocyanin pigment content was observed across and within populations—some kernels displayed concentrations above 50 mg/100 g. Kernel hardness was determined visually, and protein and oil content were determined by near-infrared spectrometric analysis. Flinty (hard) followed by floury (soft) kernel types were most abundant. Carotenoid content was highest in orange- and yellow-colored pop-type kernels. Anthocyanin content was highest in blue- and purple-colored floury and flint-type kernels. Kernel weight, protein, oil, and carotenoid content were significantly affected by location. Preservation of culturally-adapted varieties with diverse kernel pigments is important not only because of their genetic diversity—they also may contribute to enhanced human health and nutrition.

Key Words

Maize carotenoid anthocyanin phytonutrient borderland diversity germplasm land race health nutrition culturally based food preferences 


Variación del contenido de pigmentos antocyaninos y carotenoides en maíz. El maíz es el único cereal principal que contiene abundante variación en los carotenoides y antocianinas, pigmentos que promueven la buena salud. Los campesinos tradicionales en la región fronteriza de E.E.U.U y México utilizan muchas variedades de razas nativas con características de grano diversas, incluyendo el color, que reflejan preferencias culturales. Los alimentos preparados con estas variedades pueden proporcionar beneficios a la salud humana, pero el contenido del pigmento y los rasgos físicos y de composición del grano no han sido caracterizados. Semillas de 48 accesiones diversos representando 18 razas procedente de la región fronteriza fueron obtenidas de Native Seeds/SEARCH y sembradas en semilleros de manera replicada en dos localidades (Ohio y Arizona) en el año 2008. El color de grano fue determinado visualmente y la cantidad total de carotenoides y antocianinas fue medida usando análisis espectrofotométrico. Los granos mas abundantes fueron granos sin pigmento (blanco), seguidos por amarillos. No se observaron poblaciones con contenido alto de carotenoides (mas de 40 μg/g), pero muchas accesiones produjeron mazorcas con mezclas de granos rojos, púrpura, y azules que contienen los pigmentos antocianinas. Se observó una gran variedad en el contenido de pigmentos antocianinas a través y dentro de poblaciones-—algunos granos con concentraciones por encima de 50 mg/100 g. La dureza del grano fue determinada visualmente y el contenido de proteína y aceite fueron determinados usando análisis espectrofotométrico infrarrojo cercano. Los granos mas abundantes fueron cristalinos (duros), seguidos por harinosos (blandos). El contenido de carotenoides fue mas alto en granos amarillos y anaranjado de tipo palomitas. El contenido de antocyaninos fue mayor en granos de color azul y púrpura de tipo cristalino o harinoso. El peso de los granos y contenido de proteína, aceite y carotenoides dependió considerablemente en la localidad donde se sembró el maíz. La conservación de variedades culturalmente adaptadas con diversos pigmentos de grano es importante no solo para preservar diversidad genética sino porque puede contribuir a una mejor nutrición y salud humana.

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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Si Hwan Ryu
    • 1
  • Lindsay Werth
    • 2
  • Suzanne Nelson
    • 2
  • Joseph C. Scheerens
    • 1
  • Richard C. Pratt
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Horticulture and Crop ScienceThe Ohio State University, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development CenterWoosterUSA
  2. 2.Native Seeds/SEARCHTucsonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Plant and Environmental SciencesCollege of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental SciencesLas CrucesUSA

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