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A New Methodological Approach to Detect Microcenters and Regions of Maize Genetic Diversity in Different Areas of Lowland South America


Microcenters of diversity of crop plants are small geographic areas, while regions of diversity are large and relatively diffuse areas that conserve high or moderate genetic diversity, respectively. This study aimed to identify microcenters and regions of maize diversity in different areas of lowland South America, in Brazil and Uruguay, proposing a new methodological approach based on ethnobotanical, morphological, and molecular indicators and genetic diversity indices. The collection areas considered microcenters were surrounded by a buffer of 50 km (area: 7,850 km2) and the regions by buffers of 150 km (area: 70,650 km2) to 300 km (area: 282,600 km2). The study was carried out in parts of the biomes of Amazonia, Caatinga, Cerrado, Atlantic Forest, and Pampa. A total of 261 farmers participated, of whom 129 were interviewed. Four microcenters and four regions of maize diversity were identified, showing: (i) richness and genetic diversity of landraces (mostly unique to each region) and richness of maize races; (ii) the presence of landraces under diversification by current human action as diagnosed by sociocultural aspects and diversity of uses attributed to landraces; and, (iii) maize germplasm conservation areas, on microregional and regional geographic scales. Indicators of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats were identified in the areas involved in the study.

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The authors confirm that the data supporting the findings of this study are available within the article and its supplementary materials.


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We thank especially all local and Indigenous farmers who collaborated with this study. We also thank the Collaborative Research Network of the Interdisciplinary Group of Agrobiodiversity Study—InterABio—( for the support provided in the maize collections.


This research was supported by the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP; process 2015/26837-0, Brazil), the Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq; process 421045/2016-7, Brazil), and the Sectoral Commission of Scientific Research (CSIC; process id2016/400, Uruguay); CNPq awarded scholarships and research fellowships to FMC, NCAS, EAV, and CRC.

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Authors and Affiliations



FMC, NCAS, RV, and EAV planed and designed the research. FMC, NCAS, and RV collected and prepared the South American lowland material and conducted the statistical data analysis. FMC, NCAS, RV, EAV, and CRC contributed to the drafting of the manuscript, including the review, support for the interpretation, and discussion of the results. All authors reviewed and contributed to the final manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Flaviane Malaquias Costa or Charles Roland Clement.

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Ethics Approval

This research was approved by the Ethics Committee for Research with Human Beings of ESALQ/USP in December 2016; by the National Research Ethics Commission (CONEP), CAAE process 60382016.2.0000.5395; by the National System of Authorization and Information on Biodiversity (SisBio) (registration no. 61447-1); and was registered in the National System for the Management of Genetic Heritage and Associated Traditional Knowledge (SisGen) (registration no. AD2EF0B). Before each interview, family farmers signed the free and informed consent form.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare no competing interests.

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Supplementary file1 (XLSX 3673 KB)

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Costa, F.M., de Almeida Silva, N.C., Vidal, R. et al. A New Methodological Approach to Detect Microcenters and Regions of Maize Genetic Diversity in Different Areas of Lowland South America. Econ Bot (2023).

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