MEXICO CITY – A recent international study found that a variety of maize native to southern Mexico’s Sierra Mixe region can fix nitrogen from the atmosphere and reduce the use of chemical fertilizers, the Mexican government said on Thursday.
The Environmental Secretariat said in a statement that the discovery could lead to important benefits if the trait is incorporated into other conventional maize varieties, which would reduce the need to use fertilizers and boost yields in poor soils.
Reducing the use of fertilizers could also have a beneficial impact on the environment, as it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated in the production of those agrochemicals.
The study was published in the journal PLOS Biology on Aug. 7 by a multidisciplinary team from several academic institutions, including the University of California Davis, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the Technological Institute of the Valley of Oaxaca, as well as from food company Mars.
Symbiotic nitrogen-fixing bacteria living in the maize’s roots are able to absorb nitrogen from the air, which is then converted into ammonia that is usable by the plants.
The fieldwork was carried out in the Sierra Mixe region in the southern state of Oaxaca, and included the participation of the local indigenous community.
The undersecretary of Environmental Normativity and Promotion, Carlos Hurtado, said that the local indigenous community was involved in the research following the Nayoga Protocol, which states that countries and communities that are the source of genetic resources should share in a fair and equitable manner in the benefits created by their use.