Bolivia maize varieties

The varieties of Bolivian maize are the result of thousands of years of selective breeding for superior agronomic and cooking traits.

Climate and soil diversity is a key feature of the landscape of Bolivia, a country extending between 9° to 22° South and 57° to 69° West. The indigenous cultures that played a key role in the differentiation of the native Bolivian maize races were the Aymara in the north, the Sauces in central Bolivia, and the Yampara in the south. Specifically, the Aymara adapted maize crop growth to the Lake Titicaca plateau, about 3,500-3,800 meters above sea level, a harsh environment, cold, arid, and windy.

Traditionally, maize is cropped in the following regions:

Most maize harvested under 1,000 masl is cropped in commercial farms and used to feed livestock.

Use as food

Maize is a staple ingredient of traditional Bolivian cooking. It is used to prepare typical dishes such as;


Maize crossed from the Peruvian mountains into Bolivia about 3,000 BCE as a marginal food of the Andean peoples. Primitive maize, with small and popping kernels, and flint endosperm aligned in four distinct rows on the ear, later shifted to a decussed eight row alignment. Prior to the Incan rule of Bolivia, selection of the mean primitive ears with eight rows diversified and underwent qualitative specialization (kernel composition, consistency, shape and color), followed by the increase in the number of the rows. The key events of this process were;[1]

Later, selection was directed to link molecular markers (pigmentation) to the different kinds of present day varieties. For instance;

Maize from the "Morocho" and "Perla" varieties crossed the Andes mountain ridge and adapted to the lower altitude and different climates of Paraguay, Argentina, and the Brazilian lowlands, before the arrival of the Spaniards in the sixteenth century.

Contemporary classification

Since the mid-1970s, the Centro Fitotécnico y Ecogenético de Pairumani in Cochabamba collected and characterized over 1,500 maize samples. These were studied by environment, morphology, and cytological analysis of the chromosomes, resulting in the classification of 7 racial complexes, 45 races and hundreds of agro-ecotypes. These accessions are presently stored at the Pairumani germplasm bank.

On the basis of these and previous studies,[2] Aureliano Brandolini and collaborators identified the following racial complexes and races of native maize;[3][4][5][6]

Popcorn kernels very small and hard. Grown everywhere. No change in flowering and ripening cycle when grown in temperate latitudes.

Short and anthocianic plants with very low ear insertion. Grown between 3,000-3,700 masl, in the Lake Titicaca plateau.

Medium to tall plants with usual red stalk. Size, shape (usually large) and color of the kernel greatly variable. Grown in the temperate valleys, 1,500-3,000 masl.

Semi-flint or semi-dent kernels, yellow or orange, thin & hard external starch layer and floury internal layer. Grown in the temperate valleys and subtropical regions, 1,000-3,000 masl.

Tall and long cycle plants, with broad ears (Enano excepted), and joint floury or semi-flint kernels, large and brittle rachis. Grown in the Amazon and partially in the Chaco lowlands, 150-1,000 masl.

Mostly short cycle plant with white and round kernels. Grown in the valleys and plains.

Grown in the transition zone between Chaco and the Andes meso-thermic valleys.

They include varieties such as Cubano amarillo, crossed with local races. Grown in the tropics and sub-tropics, 250-1,500 masl.

See also


  1. El maíz y su mejoramiento genético en Bolivia, Gonzalo Ávila Lara, p142. ANCB – FSIP. Cochabamba. 2008.
  2. Ramírez E. R., Timothy D. H., Díaz B. E., Grant U. J., 1960. Races of maize in Bolivia. Nat. Acad. Sci. - Nat. Res. Council. Washington, D.C. Publ. N. 74
  3. Maíces Bolivianos, A. Rodríguez, M. Romero, J. Quiroga, G. Avila, with the collaboration of A. Brandolini, p. 246, FAO, Rome, 1968.
  4. I mais boliviani, Gonzalo Avila, A.G. Brandolini, IAO, Florence, 1990.
  5. Maize evolution and differentiation, A. Brandolini, G. Avila, p. 108, CRF Press, Bergamo, 2004.
  6. Recursos fitogenéticos de América Latina, A. Brandolini, G.V. Brandolini, p. 242, CRF Press, Bergamo, 2005

External links

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