Biofortification Gets the Attention of Crop Researchers
What is Biofortification? This term is used to indicate a category of hybrids or varieties with genetic characteristics that enhance the nutritional value of the grain.
The new interest in breeding for enhanced nutrition in crops is fueling the attention of crop researchers. The American Society of Agronomy is one of the largest scientific organizations in the U.S. Its membership includes scientists with specific interests and expertise in all the fields of agriculture. Within the organization there are as many Divisions as there are scientific fields of endeavors related to agriculture. One of the important Divisions is Crop Science, which covers all aspects related to crops. Plant breeders are the main membership in this Division.
This year, two scientific Divisions will organize symposiums. One includes crop breeding for bio-fortification, effect of agronomic factors on nutrient content, impact of environmental factors on biofortification, and development of molecular breeding for fortification. The other Division is organizing a symposium on genome editing for crop improvement and genome selection for accelerating genetic gains.
Basically what is happening is a retooling of plant breeding to use new technologies to develop crops with improved productivity and to include traits of importance nutritionally. These new crop selections have the potential of becoming an important part of the food chain in the future. This is all in response to the increased awareness by consumers of the importance of food with better nutritional value.
Corn Milling, An Interesting Story
Grain milling was done by hand before mechanization. In cultures where grains were their main source of food, milling was done by hand, using grinding stones or by pounding. Milling evolved into stone milling powered by water. The most modern systems now take advantage of knowledge of grain science and mechanization.
One example of milling evolution is found in a country in South America – Venezuela. People had been using corn to prepare their favorite type of bread called arepa. Initially, housewives would get up very early in the morning to mill the white corn grain with a grinding stone to make the arepas for breakfast. Eventually, housewives decided that bread was a better option and it was easier to go to a bakery to buy.
However, traditional foods have a strong pull. Industrialists took over and over time they developed mechanical milling, packaging and promoting the new product. The milling industry conducted extensive surveys and they found that housewives would not prepare something from scratch if it took more than 20 minutes. Voila, the precooked flour emerged and flourished. If you are not doing research to evaluate a new corn type or a new recipe, it is easy to either buy a muffin at the bakery or to make a muffin or your favorite recipe with flours sold at the grocery store.
Hurray for the nutritious grains we have and the great millers that transform grains into nutritive ingredients. We are pleased to see milled products of our specialty corns beginning to emerge in the market; the high lysine corn products have been available for a few years now. Next year, we will see milled products made from our corn hybrid GEI 411C (the blueberry of corn), GEI 2318 (high carotene hybrid), and our hard endosperm hybrid GEI 9717. There are more corn types coming!
Featured Product: GEI 411C, The Blueberry of Corn
We still have a good supply of seed of this hybrid from our 2016 production.
There is treated seed for conventional management production and untreated seed for organic producers as a choice possible under the exception rule of the Iowa Organic Certification Program.
For Cooking and Baking
This hybrid has been produced and processed with very good results. Grain can be nixtamalized to make Masa products such as tortillas, corn chips, or tamales. Corn meal can be used for cooking or for baking. We have used these products as part of the lunch menu at the GEI field days with very good reviews. The excellent flavor and strong color of the food products are noticeable.
Featured Product: GEI 9717, Hard Endosperm Corn Hybrid
This is a RM 110-112 hybrid adapted to the Central Corn Belt.
This hybrid has a very good yield for maturity, responds well to fertility inputs and takes advantage of good weather conditions. This hybrid can be planted for final populations of 32-34 M plants/acre. Seed drop should be increased 5% to adjust for potential plant field loses. Fertilizer recommendations should consider yield expectations, historical yields obtained from a field and soil types. GEI 9717 has a good tolerance to heat stress and a good tolerance to common foliar diseases. The ears on this hybrid have white cobs and the grain has a hard texture endosperm suitable for grain milling.
For farmers using the grain for feed, the protein and starch content is above average for feed corns making the grain a good choice for marketing the grain through livestock.
Seed is available for strip testing: If you want to see this hybrid in a strip test in your farm GEI will make the seed available at no cost.
GEI 9717 Chemical Composition:
Recipe: Twice-Baked Cornmeal Cookie (Biscotti di Polenta)
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon almond extract
2/3 cup (about 4 ounces) finely chopped almonds or other nuts (I used pecans)
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon milk for glaze
Preheat oven to 400⁰ F. Lightly butter and flour a baking sheet.
In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, eggs, and almond extract; beat until the dough is smooth. Stir in the nuts. Gather up the dough with fingers and form into a ball; cut ball into 4 equal portions. The dough will be quite soft and sticky.
Dust a work surface well with flour. With flour-dusted palms, place each piece of dough on work surface and roll into a rope about 9 inches long and about 2 ½ inches in diameter; as you roll, incorporate flour as needed to keep dough from sticking to surface. Place the finished ropes several inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Flatten tops slightly with fingers so that the sides of each rope are a little flatter than the center. Brush the exposed surface of each piece of dough evenly with the glaze mixture and bake until golden, about 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven and cool about 5 minutes, then cut each cookie loaf crosswise into slices about 1 inch thick. Arrange the pieces on an ungreased baking sheet and return to the oven until dry, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies
From: James McNair’s Corn Cookbook
Iowa Grown & Milled Corn Meal
I used corn meal of GEI 2318 (our high carotene hybrid). This was organically grown and milled by Early Morning Harvest in Panora, Iowa. Products can be purchased on their website.