Dr. Banarsi Lal & Dr. P Sharma
Maize is grown in many parts of India including the hunger and malnutrition prone areas. After wheat and rice, maize is the third most important cereal crop in India. Due to its highest yield potential among the cereals it is known globally as queen of cereals. Generally it needs less water (987m3/ton) as compared to the other food crops like rice (1400m3/ ton) and wheat (1160m3/ ton) as well as less fertile soil and fertilisers. As the production of rice and wheat are approaching their limits, in spite of all the developments in agricultural science and technology, expansion of maize cultivation must attract attention, to eradicate the twin problems of hunger and malnutrition in our country. It has high nutritional value.
Maize is an important crop in hilly and sub-mountainous regions of Jammu and Kashmir where it forms staple diet of the people. Maize occupies the major area among the cereals crops in J and K. Hybrids and composites are the high yielding varieties of maize, which have the immense potential in the state. Maize production can be enhanced in the State by the adoption of composites / hybrids varieties and also by following the improved production techniques. Maize is of American origin, having been domesticated in about 7,000 years ago. It is a versatile crop that can be grown across a range of agro- ecological zones. Maize can be grown in soil, not quit suitable for cultivation of rice, wheat and many other food crops. It provides nutrients for humans, animals and poultry and serves as a basic raw material for the production of starch, oil, protein, alcoholic beverages, food sweeteners and more recently, bio-fuel. Maize is of high yielding, easy to process, readily digested and costs less than other cereals. Every part of the maize plant has economic value: the grain, leaves, stalk, tassel and cob all can be used to produce a large variety of food and non-food products. The corn grown is of three main types-grain corn, sweet corn that is used mainly as food and popcorn. There are four types of Grain corn: (1) Dent corn, which has a pronounced depression or dent at the crown of the kernels, (2) Flint corn has the hard starch layer entirely surrounding the outer part of the kernel, (3) Flour or soft corn, which is almost entirely soft starch, with only a very thin layer of hard starch and (4) Waxy corn, which has a wax-like endosperm. Popcorn has a very high proportion of hard starch. When heated, the moisture in the kernel expands rapidly, resulting in an explosive rupture of the epidermis. The size of the kernel increases from 15 to 35 times, after popping. Maize is one of the most important cereals of India.
It is a source of nutrition and phytochemical compounds. Phytochemicals play an important role in preventing chronic diseases. It contains various major phytochemicals such as carotenoids, phenolic compounds and phytosterols. It is believed to have potential anti-HIV activity due to the presence of Galanthus nivalis agglutinin (GNA) lectin or GNA-maize. A tablespoon of maize oil satisfies the requirements for essential fatty acids for a healthy child or adult. Decoction of maize silk, roots, leaves, and cob are used for bladder problems, nausea, vomiting, and stomach complaints. Zein an alcohol-soluble prolamine found in maize endosperm has unique novel applications in pharmaceutical and nutraceutical areas. Resistant Starch (RS) from maize reduces the risk of cecal cancer, atherosclerosis, and obesity-related complications. Zein an alcohol-soluble prolamin is an important component found in maize endosperm. It is generally recognised as safe, nontoxic and biodegradable protein. It possesses great potential to provide important health benefits to human beings. It acts as a nanoscale biomaterial that has unique solubility and film-forming properties.
Maize kernel is an edible and nutritive part of the plant. It contains vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (niacin), vitamin B3 (riboflavin), vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), folic acid, selenium, N-p-coumaryl tryptamine, and N-ferrulyl tryptamine. Potassium is a major nutrient present which has a good significance because an average human diet is deficient in it. The presence of essential fatty acids, especially linoleic acid in maize oil plays an important role in the diet by maintaining blood pressure, regulating blood cholesterol level, and preventing cardiovascular maladies. Maize is a good source of fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, proteins and fibres. Maize is deficient in two essential amino acids viz, lysine and tryptophan. Its nitrogenous contents are 7 per cent albumin (water soluble protein) and 5 per cent globulin. However, all varieties of maize are rich in dietary fibres, now accepted as an essential part of nutritionally balanced diet, which prevent a number of diseases starting from constipation up to colon cancer, obesity, diabetes, hyper tension and certain types of heart ailments. Its nitrogenous contents are 7 per cent albumin (water soluble protein), 5 per cent globulin (saline soluble protein), 52 per cent prolamin (alcohol soluble protein), 2.5 per cent gluteline (alkali soluble fraction), 6 per cent non-proteinous nitrogen and 5 per cent residual nitrogen. The nutritional qualities of the 4 soluble fractions of cereal proteins are albumin > globulin >gluteline >prolamin. Besides, in recent years breeders and biotechnologists have gone a long way in developing new varieties of maize which contain proteins with better nutritional qualities known as Quality Protein Maize (QPM), which have nearly 80 per cent biological value, 92 per cent true protein digestibility and are relatively richer in essential amino acids like lysine and tryptophan. These varieties have come up well in field conditions. Therefore, extensive cultivation of maize, both traditional as well as the newly released hybrids must be encouraged not only to fight hunger and malnutrition, but also, for making other value added products out of it through various agro-industries.
(Dr. Banarsi Lal, Scientist and Head of KVK, Reasi and Dr. Pawan Sharma, Scientist at KVK, Kathua (Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology-Jammu) (SKUAST-J))
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