Yank the husks off ears of corn grown in the mountains of southern Mexico, and you may find kernels that are red, yellow, white, blue, black or even variegated.
It’s only one measure of the diversity of the 60 or so native varieties of corn in Mexico. Another is the unusual adaptation of some varieties to drought, high heat, altitude or strong winds.
Plant specialists describe the native varieties of corn in Mexico as a genetic trove that might prove valuable should extreme weather associated with global warming get out of hand. Corn, one of the most widely grown grains in the world, is a key component of the global food supply.
But experts say Mexico’s native varieties are themselves under peril – from economics and genetic contamination – potentially depriving humans of a crucial resource.