Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

Planet Earth

Orange Is the New Maize

A scientist battles nutrition deficiencies with high beta-carotenoid orange corn.

By Jim SullivanApril 30, 2015 5:00 AM
orangemaize.jpg
Torbert Rocheford bred his nutrient-rich orange corn naturally. | Purdue University/Tom Campbell

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

“I was the only one doing it,” researcher Torbert Rocheford explains demurely when asked about the expertise that had the government knocking on his door in 2001.

Rocheford, a plant geneticist at Purdue, drew the attention of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for his research on variations affecting provitamin A carotenoids — naturally occurring plant pigments that our bodies can convert to vitamin A — in maize. Working with USAID and later HarvestPlus and the National Science Foundation, Rocheford has used natural breeding techniques to pioneer high beta-carotenoid orange corn.

The bright-orange corn could help children in sub-Saharan Africa, where nutritionally inferior white corn is a dietary mainstay and thousands of vitamin A-deficient children go blind each year.

“Yellow corn is culturally unacceptable to some — it’s fed only to animals — so orange maize is fresh and untainted by that perception,” says Rocheford. “And it could provide twentyfold of vitamin A.”

Other high beta-carotene root vegetables, such as carrots and sweet potatoes, don’t grow easily in some African regions, so orange corn has the best chance of taking root and becoming a standard crop. Consuming the new maize also could prevent vision deterioration caused by macular degeneration in the elderly. One variety may be available in the United States by 2016.

2 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In