Economic Botany

, Volume 57, Issue 1, pp 7–20 | Cite as

Landraces of maize in Central Mexico: an altitudinal transect

Abstract

Conservation of crop genetic resources is now considered an important component of sustainable agricultural development. If conservation of genetic resources for agriculture is to be successful, a more complete understanding of the dynamics affecting traditional (landrace) crop populations is needed. We conducted a study of maize-based agriculture in the Central Highlands of Mexico in communities at 2400, 1700, 1400, and 1200 masl to assess the status of traditional varieties in an area characterized by thorough integration into the national economy. Our research contradicts the view that modern varieties persist because of marginal conditions, deficient infrastructure, weaker markets, or traditional attitudes. One or two landraces dominated highland maize populations and farmers appeared to be more conservative in terms of their emphasis on traditional maize varieties than at lower elevations. The dominance of traditional varieties in the highlands is well known but poorly explained, and the coexistence of traditional and modern varieties in the mid-elevations was unexpected. Our highland study area has good roads, is near Mexico City, and is less than 50 km away from four major crop research institutes that have done maize breeding since 1950’s. We suggest that in situ conservation of maize genetic resources in the highlands is sustained because the landraces there have good agronomic performance and are highly valued by farmers for their end-use qualities. At the mid-elevations, competition between local and modern maize was sharpest, and farmers have found that both landraces and improved varieties suit their needs, hence enhancing genetic diversity. Interventions and incentives would appropriately be carried out here to assure in situ conservation of locally adapted landraces of maize.

Key Words

Maize landraces Mexico altitudinal transects genetic resources crop conservation 

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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden Press 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.El Colegio de la Frontera SurECOSUR, AgroecologiaChiapasMexico
  2. 2.Human and Community DevelopmentUniversity of CaliforniaDavis
  3. 3.Genetic Resources Conservation ProgramUniversity of CaliforniaDavis

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