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M A I Z E - ZEA MAYS


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Bianca
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« Reply #15 on: November 07, 2008, 10:15:53 am »



Photograph of the mummy and
a close-up of the maize.

(Credit: Dr Verónica Lia,
Universidad de Buenos Aires)









                                              Mummy's Amazing American Maize






ScienceDaily
(Feb. 12, 2007) —

The far-reaching influence of Spanish and Portuguese colonisers appears not to have extended to South American agriculture, scientists studying a 1,400-year-old Andean mummy have found.

The University of Manchester researchers compared the DNA of ancient maize found in the funerary offerings of the mummy and at other sites in northwest Argentina with that grown in the same region today.

Surprisingly, they found both ancient and modern samples of the crop were genetically almost identical indicating that modern European influence has not been as great as previously thought.

"The entire culture of South America changed when the Europeans arrived in the 15th century - everything from the language to the whole way of life," explained Professor Terry Brown, who headed the research in the Faculty of Life Sciences.

"Maize is the staple food crop of the region but prior to colonisation it also had a ritual significance - the indigenous people were amazed by maize and even worshipped it.

"Given the immense changes that took place in South America following the arrival of the Europeans it is surprising that this crop has remained unaltered for hundreds of years."

Using the new facilities in the Manchester Interdisciplinary Biocentre - a cross-faculty institute at the University - Professor Brown is now examining the DNA of ancient maize from Peru, up to 6,000 years old, to determine if these much older specimens are also similar to modern crops.

The research was published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society of London.


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 Retrieved September 29, 2008,



from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2007/02/070211202525.htm
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« Reply #16 on: November 07, 2008, 10:18:31 am »









         First Amazon-Andean Crop Plant Transfer And Corn Processing In Peru 3600-4000 Years Ago






ScienceDaily
(Mar. 7, 2006) —

Mouthwatering Peruvian cuisine like causa (mashed yellow potatoes layered with avocado and seafood) and carapulcra (dried potatoes and pork/chicken in peanut sauce) combine food crops from Amazon basin rainforests and Andean highlands. Smithsonian archaeologists and colleagues presenting in the prestigious journal, Nature1, uncover the first definitive evidence for this culinary, cultural link: 3600-4000 year-old plant microfossils and starch grains.

Heading to the supermarket to pick up some corn flour, a couple of tomatoes or a can of beans usually doesn't conjure up the notion of 10,000 years of agricultural development in the Americas--a transition from hunter-gatherer cultures to agricultural cultures actively developing and trading new food crops. But this transition is still inadequately understood. New excavations and a growing collection of plant microfossil remains rapidly adds pieces to this puzzle.

A multidisciplinary team excavated a stone house at Waynuna, north of Arequipa on the western slope of the Andes and analyzed plant remains from three grinding stones.

Arrowroot from the Amazon. Starchy arrowroot (Maranta sp.) tubers don't grow in the Andean highlands. So the presence of tiny Arrowroot starch grains and phytoliths on the grinding stones and in associated sediments means that people were moving tubers from lowland Amazon rainforest sites east of the Andes west to the Waynuna site.

Maize from Mexico. Maize (Zea mays) cultivation also swept through the Americas in the millennia following its domestication from Teosinte, a wild ancestor from Mexico's tropical Balsas river valley, some 9000 years ago. At the Waynuna site, maize starch grains were the most common plant remains on the grinding stones. Phytoliths derived from the leaves of maize provided evidence that maize was grown at the site. The shape and grinding damage of maize particles suggests that two races of maize--one used as flour and another, popcorn or dent corn variety--were probably grown and processed at the site. The Waynuna house is older than any of the other sites in Peru where maize has been found and sets back the date of maize cultivation and processing in the region by ~1000 years.

Obsidian trade. The Waynuna site perches on the shoulders of Cerro Aycano, the northernmost point of one of the Andes' richest sources of obsidian. Ample archaeological evidence shows that preceramic peoples moved obsidian from the mountains down into the Amazon basin, so it is not surprising that travelers eventually introduced new foods to residents of this upland area.

Multiproxy microfossil analysis of starch grains and phytoliths is proving to be an extremely important tool--applied to stone tool surfaces and associated sediments, to new sites and to sites where warm, wet climates have destroyed larger plant remains. Future work is expected to yield a better understanding of the domestication and trade of peanuts, manioc and achira, staples depicted in the stone iconography of the first great cultures to develop in a region where amazing cooking is still the standard.
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« Reply #17 on: November 07, 2008, 10:19:26 am »










The research team included members from the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, the University of Maine, Orono, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, along with Ithaca College in the U.S. and the Museo Contisuyo, Moquegua and the Instituto Nacional de Cultura, Alameda, in Peru. This work was funded by a grant from the Heinz Charitable Trust Latin American Archaeology Program, FERCO, the Office of the Provost, Ithaca College, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), a unit of the Smithsonian Institution with headquarters in Panama City, Panama, furthers our understanding of tropical nature and its importance to human welfare, trains students to conduct research in the tropics and promotes conservation by increasing public awareness of the beauty and importance of tropical ecosystems. www.stri.org

Ref. Perry, L., Sandweiss, D., Piperno, D., Radmaker, K., Malpass, M., Umire, A. and de la Vera, P. 2006. Early maize agriculture and interzonal interaction in southern Peru. Nature, 2 March, 2006.



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Adapted from materials provided by Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.
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 MLA Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (2006, March 7). First Amazon-Andean Crop Plant Transfer And Corn Processing In Peru 3600-4000 Years Ago. ScienceDaily.



Retrieved September 29, 2008,



from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2006/03/060306112627.htm
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« Reply #18 on: November 07, 2008, 10:21:58 am »










                           Anthropologist Finds Earliest Evidence Of Maize Farming In Mexico






ScienceDaily
(Apr. 10, 2007) —

A Florida State University anthropologist has new evidence that ancient farmers in Mexico were cultivating an early form of maize, the forerunner of modern corn, about 7,300 years ago - 1,200 years earlier than scholars previously thought.

Professor Mary Pohl conducted an analysis of sediments in the Gulf Coast of Tabasco, Mexico, and concluded that people were planting crops in the "New World" of the Americas around 5,300 B.C. The analysis extends Pohl's previous work in this area and validates principles of microfossil data collection.

The results of Pohl's study, which she conducted along with Dolores R. Piperno of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in the Republic of Panama, Kevin O. Pope of Geo Arc Research and John G. Jones of Washington State University, will be published in the April 9-13 edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"This research expands our knowledge on the transition to agriculture in Mesoamerica," Pohl said. "These are significant new findings that fill out knowledge of the patterns of early farming. It expands on research that demonstrates that maize spread quickly from its hearth of domestication in southwest Mexico to southeast Mexico and other tropical areas in the New World including Panama and South America."

The shift from foraging to the cultivation of food was a significant change in lifestyle for these ancient people and laid the foundation for the later development of complex society and the rise of the Olmec civilization, Pohl said. The Olmecs predated the better known Mayans by about 1,000 years.

"Our study shows that these early maize cultivators located themselves on barrier islands between the sea and coastal lagoons, where they could continue to fish as well as grow crops," she said.
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« Reply #19 on: November 07, 2008, 10:23:28 am »











                                   




These ears of corn demonstrate some of the differences mutations

(from the Maize Genetics Cooperation Stock Center). (Credit: Photo by Keith Weller; Courtesy of

USDA/Agricultural Research Service)
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« Reply #20 on: November 07, 2008, 10:24:58 am »










During her field work in Tabasco seven years ago, Pohl found traces of pollen from primitive maize and evidence of forest clearing dating to about 5,100 B.C. Pohl's current study analyzed phytoliths, the silica structure of the plant, which puts the date of the introduction of maize in southeastern Mexico 200 years earlier than her pollen data indicated. It also shows that maize was present at least a couple hundred years before the major onset of forest clearing. Traces of charcoal found in the soil in 2000 indicated the ancient farmers used fire to clear the fields on beach ridges to grow the crops.

"This significant environmental impact of maize cultivation was surprisingly early," she said. "Scientists are still considering the impact of tropical agriculture and forest clearing, now in connection with global warming."

The phytolith study also was able to confirm that the plant was, in fact, domesticated maize as opposed to a form of its ancestor, a wild grass known as teosinte. Pohl and her colleagues were unable to make the distinction after the pollen study. Primitive maize was probably domesticated from teosinte and transported to the Gulf Coast lowlands where it was cultivated, according to Pohl.

The discovery of cultivated maize in Tabasco, a tropical lowland area of Mexico, challenges previously held ideas that Mesoamerican farming originated in the semi-arid highlands of Mexico and shows an early exchange of food plants.

Pohl's PNAS article also addresses misconceptions about the paleoecological method, which recovers microfossil evidence, such as pollen, starch grains, or phytoliths, as opposed to macrofossils or whole plant parts, such as maize cobs. Pohl and her colleagues argue that contamination of samples through the geological processes of sediment mixing is more likely to occur with macrofossils than microfossils.

The National Science Foundation and the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies funded the research.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Adapted from materials provided by Florida State University.
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Retrieved September 29, 2008, from



http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2007/04/070409181647.htm
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« Reply #21 on: November 07, 2008, 10:27:44 am »










          Earliest Signs Of Corn As Staple Food Found After Spreading South From Mexican Homeland






ScienceDaily
(Mar. 25, 2008) —

Corn has long been known as the primary food crop in prehistoric North and Central America. Now it appears it may have been an important part of the South American diet for much longer than previously thought, according to new research by University of Calgary archaeologists who are cobbling together the ancient history of plant domestication in the New World.

In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U of C PhD student Sonia Zarrillo and archaeology professor Dr. Scott Raymond report that a new technique for examining ancient cooking pots has produced the earliest directly dated examples of domesticated corn (maize) being consumed on the South American continent. Their discovery shows the spread of maize out of Mexico more than 9,000 years ago occurred much faster than previously believed and provides evidence that corn was likely a vital food crop for villages in tropical Ecuador at least 5,000 years ago.

"The domestication and dispersal of maize has been a hot topic in archaeology for decades and these are the earliest indisputable dates for its presence in South America," Raymond said. "It has long been thought that maize may have been used south of Panama at this time for ritual purposes but this shows it was also being consumed as food."

Raymond led the excavation of tropical village sites in western Ecuador in the early 1980s, which are the oldest known villages in the Americas. Using pottery fragments recovered from the sites, Zarrillo obtained the charred remnants of prehistoric meals and found they contained starch granules from domesticated corn.

"Plant material typically does not preserve very well in tropical sites but it turns out that microscopic starch grains do survive very well over the years and can be used to identify exact species of plants," Zarrillo said. "Analyzing starch from charred food residues is a new technique in archaeology and it is exciting because it will stimulate research around the world when people realize they can recover starch from cooking pots and use it to date and identify what people were using as food."

Starch analysis was also used by Zarrillo and Raymond for a study published in Science last year that traced the domestication and spread of chili peppers throughout South America, Central America and the Caribbean more than 6,000 years ago.

The paper "Directly dated starch residues document early formative maize (Zea mays L.) in tropical Ecuador" by Sonia Zarrillo, Deborah M. Pearsall (University of Missouri), J. Scott Raymond, Mary Ann Tisdale (Canadian Heritage, Government of Canada) and Dugane Quon (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) will be available in the March 24 online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Adapted from materials provided by University of Calgary, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.
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 MLA University of Calgary (2008, March 25). Earliest Signs Of Corn As Staple Food Found After Spreading South From Mexican Homeland.



ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 29, 2008, from



http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2008/03/080324173538.htm
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« Reply #22 on: November 07, 2008, 10:30:58 am »





             





A new technique for examining ancient cooking pots has produced the earliest directly dated examples of

domesticated corn (maize) being consumed on the South American continent.



(Credit: Image courtesy of University of Calgary)
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« Reply #23 on: November 15, 2008, 08:19:53 pm »

















                                                Ancient Mexican Maize Varieties:


               Sequencing Of Ancient Corn Landraces To Ensure Genetic Diversity And Resources






ScienceDaily
(June 28, 2008) —

Maize was first domesticated in the highlands of Mexico about 10,000 years ago and is now one of the most important crop plants in the world. It is a member of the grass family, which also hosts the world's other major crops including rice, wheat, barley, sorghum, and sugar cane. As early agriculturalists selected plants with desirable traits, they were also selecting genes important for transforming a wild grass into a food plant.

Since that time, Mexican farmers have created thousands of varieties suitable for cultivation in the numerous environments in the Mexican landscape--from dry, temperate highlands to moist, tropical lowlands. Because of its importance as food, the need to improve yield, and the challenges presented by changing climate, the maize genome of the B73 cultivar is being sequenced. However, because maize has a complex genome and many varieties, the genome sequence from just one variety will not be adequate to represent the diversity of maize worldwide. Mexican scientists are also sequencing and analyzing the genomes of the ancient landraces to recapture the full genetic diversity of this complex and adaptable crop.

Dr. Vielle-Calzada and his colleagues, Octavio Martinez de la Vega, Julio Vega-Arrenguin, Gustavo Hernandez-Guzman, Enrique Ibarra-Laclette, Beatriz Jimenez-Moraila, Guilermo Corona-Armenta, Cesar Alvarez-Mejia, Araceli Fernandez-Cortes, Gustavo de la Riva, Alfredo Herrera-Estrella, and Luis Herrera-Estrella, are in the process of sequencing one of the ancient popcorn races, Palomero, and analyzing its molecular and functional diversity relative to other maize races. Dr. Vielle-Calzada, of the National Laboratory of Genomics for Biodiversity, Cinvestav, Mexico, will be presenting this work at a symposium on Maize Biology at the annual meeting of the American Society of Plant Biologists in Mérida, Mexico (June 28, 11:30 AM).

Like other varieties of maize, the popcorn landraces are used throughout the world. Archeological evidence traces the earliest popcorn in the USA to New Mexico, suggesting an overland dispersal from the highlands of central Mexico into the northern plains of Mexico and then into the southwestern USA. Recent studies also support the hypothesis that popcorns are some of the oldest races of maize and group closely with teosinte in phylogenetic analyses.

Palomero is an ancient popcorn landrace of the Central and Northern Highlands Group. Vielle-Calzada and his colleagues estimated that its genome is about 22% smaller than that of B73. Their structural and functional analysis of this genome reveals a large number of unreported sequences, suggesting that the ancient landraces contain a large pool of unexplored genetic diversity that could be useful in new crop generation as well as the study of the evolution and domestication of maize and other cereals. Other studies in Mexico and elsewhere have shown that Mexican maize varieties are extraordinarily diverse.

Maize is a good model plant for studying the development of cereal crops because of its complex genome, numerous developmental mutants, and thousands of varieties. It is thought that as many as 1200 genes were selected in the process of transforming maize into a versatile food plant, and the process continues today. In regions throughout Mexico, farmers still cultivate local or criollo maize varieties in traditional ways as well as generating new varieties. They are thus contributing to conservation of the genetic diversity of maize and preserving traits that could be useful in yet unforeseen circumstances.

Many of the ancient varieties like Palomero were adaptations to different environmental conditions such as different soils, temperature, altitude, and drought. Preservation of these varieties and knowledge of their genetic and adaptive histories are of paramount importance as farmers around the world cope with changes in temperature and water availability and struggle to maintain a food supply for growing populations. These sequencing efforts are providing the data for genomic and mutant analyses that are needed for the genetic engineering of crops to improve yield as well as resistance to pests and tolerance for difficult growing conditions. The knowledge gained from these efforts can also be applied in crop and yield improvement efforts for other cereals.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------




Adapted from materials provided by American Society of Plant Biologists, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.
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 MLA American Society of Plant Biologists (2008, June 28). Ancient Mexican Maize Varieties: Sequencing Of Ancient Corn Landraces To Ensure Genetic Diversity And Resources. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 15, 2008, from



http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2008/06/080626075534.htm
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« Reply #24 on: January 03, 2009, 11:10:19 am »










                                    Common Smut of Corn A Delicacy To Mexicans






HYG-3119-96
Sally A. Miller
Patrick E. Lipps
Randall C. Rowe

Corn smut is an extremely common disease of sweet, pop, and dent corn in Ohio and throughout the world. It is usually not economically important, although in some years yield losses in sweet corn may be as high as 20%.

In Mexico, immature smut galls are consumed as an edible delicacy known as cuitlacoche, and sweet corn smut galls have become a high value crop for some growers in the NE United States who sell them to Mexican restaurants.





Symptoms



The corn plant may be infected at any time in the early stages of growth, but becomes less susceptible after formation of the ear. Above-ground parts may be infected, but it is more common to see smut galls on the ears, tassels, and nodes than on the leaves, internodes, and aerial roots (Figures 1 and 2).

 The smut gall is composed of a great mass of black, greasy, or powdery spores enclosed by a smooth white covering of corn tissue. The gall may be 4-5 inches in diameter. When leaves are infected, small pustules develop, usually on the midrib, causing some leaf distortion. After the spores mature, the outer covering becomes dry and brittle, breaks open, and the spores sift out.

Greatest yield losses occur when the ear becomes infected or if smut galls form on the stalks immediately above the ears.




Figure 1. Sweet corn tassel with mature common smut galls.





Figure 2. Mature common smut galls on corn ear.



http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/3000/3119.html
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« Reply #25 on: January 03, 2009, 11:13:52 am »




             








                                            Cuitlacoche: edible galls of Ustilago maydis






Cuitlacoche (or huitlacoche) is the native Mexican name given to young, edible galls that form when ears of corn are infected by Ustilago maydis.

In central Mexico, cuitlacoche is a highly prized delicacy that has been eaten since Pre-Columbian times.

 Traditional maize growers gather and market cuitlacoche following natural infection. About 400 to 500 tons of cuitlacoche are sold annually during July and August at markets in Mexico City.  More than 100 tons are processed by companies that sell the specialty mushroom canned or lyophilized.

Concurrent with an expanding market in the U. S. for other types of specialty mushrooms such as Pleurotus (oyster), Lentinula (shiitake), Flammulina (enoki) and Morchella (morel), epicureans in North America increasingly view cuitlacoche as a gourmet fungus that is part of a growing market for haute Mexican cuisine.

Cuitlacoche is served in soups, appetizers and entrees at many fashionable Mexican restaurants in major metropolitan areas in the United States, such as Topolobampo in Chicago and Rosa Mexicano in New York City and Washington DC.

Recipes for cuitlacoche are available on the internet and in gourmet Mexican cookbooks, such as Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen and Diana Kennedy’s The Art of Mexican Cooking. Canned cuitlacoche is sold on the internet and sometimes is referred to as “maize mushrooms” or “Mexican truffles”. Fresh or frozen cuitlacoche occasionally is available at farmers’ markets or from local suppliers in the U.S.

Methods to cultivate cuitlacoche as a cash crop and various other aspects of cuitlacoche production systems have been studied in the U.S. and Mexico during the past 15 years. Essential aspects of efficient cultivation of cuitlacoche include: efficient methods of inoculation, rates of gall enlargement and teliospore formation, optimal times for inoculation and harvest, production practices that optimize infection, gall size, and yield, and, possibly most important, proper post-harvest handling and marketing.
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« Reply #26 on: January 03, 2009, 11:15:11 am »









Fresh or frozen cuitlacoche occasionally is available at farmer’s markets or from local suppliers in the U.S.



(a) A crate of fresh cuitlacoche soon after harvest.

(b) Galls of Ustilago maydis removed from the ear and ready for sale as cuitlacoche.

(c) Frozen cuitlacoche may sell for as much as $18 per lb. when it is available.



(Courtesy J.K. Pataky)

http://www.apsnet.org/Education/lessonsPlantPath/CornSmut/signif.htm
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