On May 4th, in Jutiapa, Guatemala; more than 100 maize growers attended the release of the first hybrid zinc maize ever delivered and the release of the first Guatemalan zinc maize variety. These two maize are the result of the joint work of HarvestPlus, global biofortification leader; The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, CIMMYT; Science and Technology Institute, ICTA; Semilla Nueva and Atescatel cooperative with the support of the “Plataforma BioFORT”, a network created to promote biofortification activities in the country formed by 30 public and private institutions.
Felix San Vicente, CIMMYT maize breeder, highlighted the importance of this event:
“There are not many countries working with zinc maize right now and that makes us pioneers in this area. Guatemala is the first country to release a zinc maize hybrid and Colombia will be the second. This means that we can also breed high zinc maize hybrids and not only varieties and we know that there are producers who prefer hybrids over varieties.”
ICTA HB-18, zinc maize hybrid, contains 15% more zinc (34 ppm) compared to commercial maize and a tortilla, a very popular Guatemalan local dish, made with ICTA B-15 (36 ppm) zinc maize contains up to 60% more zinc than regular tortillas.
Julio Franco, technology transfer ICTA coordinator, added that these new maize become an opportunity for the Guatemalans to feed better and provide food security for their families.
“Are we wishing for a better country? Let’s start by eating better. These crops are important in that sense.” He concluded.
In addition to its nutritional content, another of the characteristics that have been decisive for its acceptance are its precocity, grain size, and yield: between 4.0-4.5 tons per hectare, ICTA B-15ACP + Zn; and 5.2 tons per hectare, hybrid ICTA HB-18ACP + Zn. Both can be grown between 0-1,400 meters above sea level and planted during the rainy season or dry season, using irrigation.
Guatemala is the third country in the world with the highest levels of chronic malnutrition and, in some areas, it affects 70% of the children between 0-5 years. Up to now, varieties of iron beans, maize, and orange-fleshed sweet potato have been released.
113 tons of seed is expected to be produced, and delivered to producers, by the end of 2018.