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Un viaggio in punta sottile. Con 2 penne Pentel e 1 quaderno Moleskine. Dalle lettere alle parole con il libro lavagna. Further research and collecting missions are needed to provide an inventory of open-pollinated landraces of other landrace groups that have survived genetic erosion in Europe. To meet this aim, extensive ethnobotanical surveys, such as the one performed here, are very powerful tools in detecting these genetic resources. Crop genetic diversity is an indispensable resource for farmers and breeders to select new crop cultivars McCouch et al.
The bulk of genetic diversity in crops is found in landraces Camacho Villa et al. Additionally, crop landraces often show interesting adaptations towards marginal environments and pest resistance Camacho Villa et al. The genetic and cultural wealth of landraces is threatened by their replacement, but also by introgression with modern cultivars Bitocchi et al.
The prerequisite of on-farm conservation programmes is on the availability of inventories of landraces. According to some sources, over the last few years, in several European countries a process of reviving landraces has been instigated by farmers and consumers, associated with traditional food production and the cultivation of marginal areas Koutsika-Sotiriou et al. Maize Zea mays L. Europe is the third largest maize producer and consumer worldwide Bitocchi et al.
Maize firstly arrived in Europe from the Americas with the voyages of Christopher Columbus. After the first introduction of Caribbean samples, subsequent introductions of maize germplasm from higher altitudes and latitudes in the Americas better adapted to European conditions, especially to longer photoperiods, boosted maize cultivation in Europe. Northern Italy is one of the cores of European maize cultivation and production, with a harvested production of grain maize and corn-cob mix of more than 6 million tons per year.
Two administrative regions, Lombardia and Veneto, exceeded 1. In most of northern Italy, until the 20th century, flint corn was the staple crop, connected with the cooking of polenta, a porridge-like traditional dish made using boiled maize flour. Genetic erosion in northern Italy is reported by Hammer et al. Researchers recognized the genetic erosion that was occurring in the maize genepool and organized collecting missions in and , followed by classification studies of the germplasm collected.
This assemblage of landraces, whose history has never been unambiguously clarified, was thought to have originated in northern Italy and for a period was preferred by farmers to other flint landraces for the production of polenta. Even though no comprehensive surveys were performed in northern Italy to assess maize landraces that might have survived genetic erosion after the s, some authors suggest that a few flint maize landraces still survive in remote valleys in the Alps and Apennines, cultivated by amateur farmers Bitocchi et al.
The conservation of flint maize landraces in Europe is considered of pivotal importance since OPVs may possess allelic variations not yet used in the selection of elite corn cultivars Reif et al. The on-farm conservation of OPVs, in areas characterized by monocultures of hybrid dent corn, is particularly threatened by unidirectional gene flow from modern cultivars to landraces which could result in the genetic extinction of the latter Bitocchi et al.
In this paper, through ethnobotanical surveys across all northern Italian provinces and an extensive literature review, besides an in-depth historical account and a clear-cut description of Zea mays subsp. The study area comprises all the administrative provinces of northern Italy where the cultivation of beaked maize has been reported in the past pres and present posts times. These, together with the municipalities where the cultivation of beaked maize persists today, are highlighted in Fig.
The location of each present beaked maize landrace and allied cross is marked by means of a different symbol see also Table S1. Boundaries of regions are thicker and continue, those of provinces are thinner and dashed; regional administrative centres has been highlighted as well the municipality of Comun Nuovo. The administrative provinces where the presence of beaked maize landraces and their crosses has been recorded either in historical pres or contemporary posts times are brightly colored.
Map credits: Nicola M. Landrace names partly or completely inserted between square brackets were coined by the authors. The complete list of the municipalities where each landrace is cultivated is reported in Table S1. Sources investigated for each landrace are reported in Table S1. This geographic area is characterized by wide alluvial plains, the Po and the Venetian Plains, enclosed by two main mountain ranges, the European Alps in the north and in the west and the Apennines in the south.
The plain areas, thanks to the abundance of water, are particularly suited to large, industrial monocultures of maize and rice. Stat, The present study is based on ethnobotanical surveys conducted by the authors across northern Italy Fig. We located all the farmers involved in the cultivation of beaked maize landraces across the study area, thanks to personal acquaintance, by directly asking maize farmers if they were acquainted with landrace growers, by contacting researchers who deal with landrace conservation and cultivation in the study area, or simply by consulting newspapers, websites and social media network platforms.
In order to obtain a uniform and comparable dataset, a unique semi-structured questionnaire was used in each interview. Questions concerned: 1 germplasm origin; 2 landrace history, distributional range, number of current growers and vernacular name; 3 cultivation, issues associated with true-to-type maintenance of the OPVs and products derived from them Data S1. Verbal informed consent was received from each interviewed subject. Ears or shelled kernels donated from interviewed farmers were stored at the University of Pavia Germplasm Bank.
Information from interviews was integrated with data acquired from the investigation of all the available historical and contemporary agronomic, botanical and culinary literature sources mentioned, for each landrace, in Table S1. The combination of interviews and literature survey allowed the authors to trace, based on the best available knowledge, all landraces of beaked maize from the study area and to obtain data regarding the whole cultivation range of each investigated landrace.
The names of taxa from family to variety ranks and the names of culta landraces, cultivars and Groups are treated according to the rules of the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants ICN, McNeill et al. Regarding the several accessions found as a result of the ethnobotanical survey, we considered belonging to the same landrace a set of accessions with common geographical and historical origin, and locally known with the same vernacular names in the few cases when the vernacular name was lacking, it was coined by the authors by combining a name recalling morphological traits of the landrace and its locality of provenance, see Table 1.
Throughout the text, each landrace and cross has been cited by means of the associated alphanumeric code see Table 1. Insights into on-farm conservation were obtained through ethnobotanical interviews and literature searches, by considering whether and which actions are put in place by farmers to limit genetic introgression with dent hybrids. Ex situ conservation was assessed by checking the occurrence of seed samples of each investigated landrace in the databases of the major Italian and international genebanks devoted to maize germplasm preservation, e.
The earliest reference to a maize with beaked kernels in Europe dates back to Matthieu Bonafous in Soulange Bodin, , director of the Agricultural Garden in Torino Ghisleni, , who described under the name Zea mays unranked rostrata Bonaf. Since accounts of accidental crossing episodes with other types of maize were already frequent e.
The plant, accurately described and photographed, was appreciated by the jury for the quality of its kernels and started to draw the attention of agronomists Venino, Since at least it was additionally cultivated in Africa Orientale Italiana A. Due to its high irrigation requirements, abundant foliage and medium-long maturing cycle, it did not establish itself in the warmer areas on the southern bank of the River Po, where shorter-cycle and more drought-tolerant flint cultivars and landraces were preferred Brandolini, a ; Brandolini, b ; Zapparoli, According to Brandolini a and Zapparoli , the plants from Comun Nuovo are commonly considered the direct precursors of the beaked maize now cultivated across northern Italy, based on a number of phenological and morphological characteristics close to the contemporary beaked landraces: late maturing cycle; tall stature, exceeding 2 m in height; wide leaves; ears subconical, usually one rarely two per plant; cob mainly white; kernels longer than 11 mm, beaked, with a paler spot on the crown; endosperm from flint to semi-flint.
The combination of these characteristics proved to be key in distinguishing beaked maize in the context of the Italian maize germplasm classifications undertaken over the course of the 20th and the early 21st centuries that, after Succi , definitively abandoned the employment of taxonomic ranks such as species, subspecies and variety in favour of other categories.
These cultivars, selected from local populations and subjected to formal improvement with the support of agronomic institutions, underwent significant diffusion between the s and the Second World War, especially in the context of the autarchy promoted by the Italian Fascist regime. And, although it had completely disappeared from the Comun Nuovo territory, it survived in a few isolated localities of the Po and Venetian Plains Cuneo, Novara, Trieste , and in some Alpine valleys Trento, Bolzano, Belluno. No formally improved cultivars were identified. A—P Ears.
Q—R Kernels. S Ear section. Scale bar is 10 cm in A—P, and 3 cm in Q—S. Figure composition credit: Giulia Maria Francesca Ardenghi.
Abbattutis, Gian Alesio
Most of the 83 localities of cultivation are scattered over the Po Plain but only on the northern bank of the River Po , the Venetian Plain, Alpine valleys ranging from the Western to the Eastern Alps and hilly areas at the base of the Alps Colline Novaresi, Colline del Varesotto, Collio ; only three are located in the Subappennine and Northern Apennine Fig. The total area under beaked maize in northern Italy can be estimated at around ha, although data are not available for all the landraces and the surface devoted to their cultivation varies from year to year, due to, e.
Landraces cultivated by single growers usually occupy less than 1 ha, such as R1 circa 0. Maize flour is the main ingredient of several additional processed products: biscuits, pastries, cakes and crackers. Recently, new products trials have been undertaken, such as with beer, pasta, pizza and ice cream Table 2 , Fig. Each landrace is indicated by means of the codes employed in Table 1.
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Taking into consideration the historical account of beaked maize in Europe given in the previous paragraph, three of these morphological characteristics constantly appear in all the available descriptions published since Bonafous in Soulange Bodin, ; Bonafous, a ; Bonafous, b and characterize every landrace with yellow endosperm to emerge during our ethnobotanical surveys: 1 kernels with a distinct apical beak; 2 flint endosperm employed to produce flour for polenta ; 3 ears of exceptional length.
Since the second half of the 19th century, as a consequence of the afore-documented continual introgression, beaked maize cultivated in Italy started to acquire some traits not reported or divergent from those originally described by Bonafous: 1 maturing cycle longer; 2 stature taller exceeding 2 m ; 3 well-developed foliage; 4 reduction of the number of ears per plant from multiple to one. Based on this similarity, these landraces can be designated as a Group, in compliance with Arts. Particularly, according to Arts.
Plants robust and tall, reaching up to 2. As observed by Zapparoli , the Rostrata Group possesses an intrinsic morphological and phenological variability that is associated with its heterogeneous origin. The Rostrata Group should not be confused with other assemblages of landraces occurring in the study area, similarly provided with beaked kernels but distinguished for other traits such as the endosperm type and their presumed different origin. In order to understand the distribution patterns across time of the current landraces and allied crosses of beaked maize, we arranged them into four different categories Table 2.
These were fundamental to define, identify and locate refugia and the revival process see the following paragraphs and are presented here:. Native landraces : cultivated in the same area by, at least, two generations of farmers; we also included within this category landraces whose cultivation has recently been expanded outside of their native range. Recovered landraces : re-propagated from kernels stored ex situ , either in crop genebanks or otherwise e.
Introduced landraces : cultivation derived from germplasm imported from a different area than the one in which they are currently cultivated; contrary to native landraces that have extended their previous range, introduced landraces cannot be found anymore in their native area from where they were imported. Crosses : resulted from a recent deliberate cross between two landraces. Crosses can be further divided into native and introduced crosses. In the first case, the parental landraces are both native to the area where the cross originated; in the second case, at least one of the parental landraces has been introduced from a different area to where the cross originated.
This latter category comprises only introduced crosses, originated between the s and the s: the parental landraces of R4 and R28 were imported from different areas from the one where these crosses originated and are now cultivated, while R22 resulted from the cross of a local landrace and an imported one; all the crosses are cultivated only in the municipality where they originated. It is interesting to note that all three crosses are the result of informal crossing between a beaked and a non-beaked flint landrace cultivated in contiguity, then deliberately maintained by individual farmers for specific traits of culinary and aesthetic interest.
Similarly, as for the landrace R16, the farmer who originally recovered it is selecting a new line characterized by black and beaked kernels. One of the farmers who is cultivating R5 is likewise selecting a new line provided with red kernels Table 1. These observations, inserted into the debate about the most suitable definition of a landrace, highlight the fact that landraces, even in an intensive cropping system, are dynamic entities far from being merely relic entities doomed to extinction. Instead, they are constantly subjected to evolutionary forces, in terms of local environmental conditions, farmer selection and crossing with other landraces Zeven, ; Camacho Villa et al.
Given the importance of beaked maize germplasm conservation, we provided a further insight into its on-farm conservation by identifying measures put in place by farmers to prevent introgression events with hybrid dent corn. In some cases i. The in situ , i. Nowadays, Rostrata Group landraces are still grown across most northern Italian regions, yet this extended distributional area is much more fragmented than it was 60 years ago Fig. Nevertheless, as far as could be ascertained from our ethnobotanical interviews and literature sources, the cultivation of more than half of these landraces i.
Disentangling the reasons that allowed the persistence of these landraces in their refugia, two main factors emerged as key in their maintenance and survival: 1 the presence of physical barriers that prevented crossing with hybrid dent cultivars and 2 deliberate on-farm conservation performed by farmers. Undoubtedly, cultivation in hill and mountain areas provided natural barriers that limited introgression events, first of all the distance from the Po and Venetian Plains, which host the most widespread cultivation of dent hybrid corn.
Mountain areas are less suitable to intensive maize cultivation and the replacement of OPVs by hybrid dent cultivars has historically been slower in mountain provinces than in provinces located in the plains Anonym, ; CRAB, ; I. Yet, by examining the geographical distribution of the 17 native landraces of beaked maize that were identified, only seven of these are exclusive to mountain territories, while ten are solely or mainly cultivated in plain or hill areas. The preservation of these five landraces, whose native ranges have been rapidly and extensively colonized by dent hybrid corn, was only possible by means of active conservation measures personally developed by farmers: R2 is traditionally cultivated in clearings and water meadows within woodlands located below terraces of the River Ticino, while fields of R10 and R12 are commonly positioned a long distance from dent hybrids.
From our investigation it emerged that, after decades of decline, a revival process in terms of an increased number of cultivation localities, product commercialization and promotion measures involving beaked maize landraces has been occurring since the late s and indeed has been gaining momentum since the early s. Of the 28 landraces investigated, the cultivation of four R1, R15, R16, R21 , whose cultivation ceased in the past i.
This is the single most important aspect of the revival on conservation grounds. For similar reasons, some landraces have also been introduced to new areas of cultivation i. The revival of beaked maize is indissolubly linked to an increasing interest by consumers in traditional food products and their higher sensorial value, similarly to what is happening to other OPVs in Europe see e. This phenomenon is highlighted by the fact that only seven landraces R4, R6, R15, R17, R24, R27, R28 are cultivated by farmers solely for self-consumption.
We are therefore witnessing a shift in beaked maize cultivation that until the late s was mostly designated for own-consumption, while currently it is mainly intended for commercialization. These landraces have survived genetic erosion as heirloom varieties and are now offering new economic opportunities to farmers. In this context, it is interesting to note that besides traditional products made using beaked maize flour, such as polenta and biscuits, new food products for some landraces R2, R11, R16, R17—R19, R21, R23, R25, R26 are now being experimented with, such as beer, crackers and even pizza or ice cream Table 2 , Fig.
Revival seems mostly spontaneously driven by farmers and consumers and only partially mediated by governmental and research institutions. It is emblematic that from to only five landraces R5, R7, R11, R19, R21 have been registered in the National Register of Conservation Varieties and only three R19—R21, two of which are listed in the aforementioned register have been granted a De.
It appears clear that, besides a few widely recognized landraces, there are several others which are undergoing a revival process via non-governmental means, such as associations of local farmers or millers, constituted around seven landraces R3, R7, R11—R13, R19, R21 with the aim of promoting products derived from these and to safeguard the true-to-type cultivation Table 2. Taking into consideration maize cultivation history in Italy from the 19th century up to the present day, marked by three generations of cultivars and landraces Lanza, , we can safely state that this country is now experiencing the rise of a fourth maize generation.
It is made up of landraces that have been recovered thanks to the presence of refugia and a revival phenomenon after seven decades of genetic erosion. Coexisting and not competing with the current assemblage of modern cultivars dominated by hybrid dent corn beaked maize cultivation accounts for only circa 0. The Rostrata Group represents one of the most ancient and neglected genepools among this new crop generation, its origin chronologically preceding the improved cultivars of the s and s.
The process of revival is contributing to its preservation and, to some extent, is providing an additional income to farmers. The first record in this paper of 18 beaked maize landraces previously unknown to the scientific community, also highlights the potential of ethnobotanical surveys in discovering neglected genetic resources see, e. These landraces, having not been preserved in any institutional genebank until this research, owe their survival only to the initiative of private farmers.
Claudio Ballerini Trivolzio and Diego Pizzolato are additionally acknowledged for taking some of the pictures here reproduced. Competing Interests The authors declare there are no competing interests. Graziano Rossi performed the experiments, approved the final draft. Filippo Guzzon conceived and designed the experiments, performed the experiments, analyzed the data, authored or reviewed drafts of the paper, approved the final draft.
Data Availability The following information was supplied regarding data availability:. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Journal List PeerJ v. Published online Jul 4. Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Corresponding author. Filippo Guzzon: ti. Received Mar 2; Accepted Jun 6. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, reproduction and adaptation in any medium and for any purpose provided that it is properly attributed.
Table S1: Municipalities where each cultivar is cultivated and associated investigated sources. Abstract Crop landraces are fundamental resources to increase the eroded genepool of modern crops in order to adapt agriculture to future challenges; plus, they are of immeasurable heritage and cultural value. Keywords: Ethnobotany, Agrobiodiversity, Plant genetic resources, Custodian farmers, Open pollinated varieties.
Introduction Crop genetic diversity is an indispensable resource for farmers and breeders to select new crop cultivars McCouch et al. Survey Methodology The study area The study area comprises all the administrative provinces of northern Italy where the cultivation of beaked maize has been reported in the past pres and present posts times. Open in a separate window. Figure 1. Study area. Table 1 Investigated landraces and associated names, geographical and altitudinal distribution, and historical information.
Its cultivation was recovered in from two ears discovered by A. Rolla in a barbershop in Bellinzago Lombardo Milano. Their father cultivated another beaked maize in the Nerviano-Rho Milano area.
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Both white and red kernels are sown, yet only white are used to produce the maize flour which is white. Pizzolato in Marano Vicentino; seeds were acquired in from Luigi Piccinin of Pasiano di Pordenone, who sows both red and white kernels. Its cultivation was also started by a farmer in Songavazzo thanks to seeds distributed by D. Pizzolato , to provide restaurants in the Lake Iseo area with white maize flour. Lenarduzzi in Sequals since circa ; seeds were acquired from a local farmer.
R14 Rosso di Brescia — Lombardia: Cremona , Mantova 0 0 Cultivated across the provinces of Brescia plain area , Cremona, and Mantova from the late 19th century until circa s. Its cultivation started in by Emanuela Dilda in Pessina Cremonese, from seeds acquired around in Val Camonica and donated by E. Amadio, teacher at the Istituto Agrario Stanga of Cremona. A strain provided with black and beaked kernles is being selected. Almost disappeared in subsequent years, its cultivation was locally revived in Mascarini since ; seeds were acquired locally.
Moltoni in Villa di Tirano since Seeds were obtained from Cermenate Como. Cultivated by P. Moltoni in Villa di Tirano since circa , it was obtained from a farmer of Costa Volpino Bergamo , whose seeds were handed down from generation to generation. Bonassoli and his mother from at least Ethnobotanical and literature surveys The present study is based on ethnobotanical surveys conducted by the authors across northern Italy Fig.
Conservation and revival Insights into on-farm conservation were obtained through ethnobotanical interviews and literature searches, by considering whether and which actions are put in place by farmers to limit genetic introgression with dent hybrids. Figure 2. Cultivated plants, drying ears and products of Zea mays subsp. Figure 3.
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The Rostrata Group and crosses: representative ears, kernels and ear section. Table 2 Products and their commercialization, germplasm origin, appraisal instruments and conservation measures associated with the investigated landraces. Code Product s Commerce Germplasm origin Prom. Pavia R2 Maize flour, crackers Yes Native landrace None In order to prevent crossing with dent hybrids, it is cultivated in small woodland clearings in the Ticino Valley despite damages by wild boars , following the advices of the farmer who donated the seeds; in the past, he cultivated this landrace also in water meadows marcite.
It is usually cultivated a long distance away from dent hybrid fields. Pavia R5 Maize flour Yes Native landrace NCVR Cultivation was historically conducted in the isolated mountain locality of Annunciata, in order to prevent crossing with other types of maize. Pavia R7 Maize flour, pastries paste di meliga Yes Native landrace NCVR; association Cultivated distance of at least m from dent hybrid fields, often in fenced areas to prevent damage by wild animals.
None R11 Maize flour, crackers Yes Native landrace NCVR; association Cultivated at a distance of at least m from dent hybrid fields, often in fenced areas to prevent damage by wild animals. None R13 Maize flour, cakes Yes Native landrace Association Cultivated on a small piece of land 4 ha surrounded by woodlands in order to prevent crossing with dent hybrids.
CREA-MAC R16 Maize flour, biscuits, beer Yes Recovered landrace None The sowing time is planned in order to prevent simultaneous flowering with dent hybrids; moreover, at harvesting time individuals located on the external fringe of the field are eliminated.
Only ears from plants with features typical to this landrace are selected for the seeds production. Co commission natural and urban barriers are not regarded as protective. Plants not typical need to be eliminated before the flowering of tassels. None R23 Maize flour, pre-cooked polenta, pasta, crackers, biscuits Yes Native landrace None Yes, but details unknown.
Pavia R25 Maize flour, crackers Yes Introduced landrace None Cultivated at a long distance from the dent hybrids fields; when this is not possible, sowing time is brought forward by about 20 days. No chemicals are employed and the yield is sometimes damaged by Eurasian magpies and Eurasian badgers. Identity of Zea Mays Subsp. Similar groups The Rostrata Group should not be confused with other assemblages of landraces occurring in the study area, similarly provided with beaked kernels but distinguished for other traits such as the endosperm type and their presumed different origin.
Back to Beaked: Present State of Conservation and Revival Germplasm origin In order to understand the distribution patterns across time of the current landraces and allied crosses of beaked maize, we arranged them into four different categories Table 2. These were fundamental to define, identify and locate refugia and the revival process see the following paragraphs and are presented here: 1.
The main on-farm conservation strategies to prevent introgression issues are: 1 sowing a long distance, of at least m, from other maize cultivations, especially of hybrid dent corn R3, R4, R7, R10—R12, R17, R19—R21, R25, R26, R Revival From our investigation it emerged that, after decades of decline, a revival process in terms of an increased number of cultivation localities, product commercialization and promotion measures involving beaked maize landraces has been occurring since the late s and indeed has been gaining momentum since the early s.
Conclusions Taking into consideration maize cultivation history in Italy from the 19th century up to the present day, marked by three generations of cultivars and landraces Lanza, , we can safely state that this country is now experiencing the rise of a fourth maize generation. Supplemental Information Data S1 Ethnobotanical interview form: Ethnobotanical interview form used in surveys.
Click here for additional data file. Table S1 Municipalities where each cultivar is cultivated and associated investigated sources: Click here for additional data file. Funding Statement The authors received no funding for this work. Additional Information and Declarations Competing Interests The authors declare there are no competing interests. References Al Khanjari et al. Molecular diversity of Omani wheat revealed by microsatellites: II. Hexaploid landraces. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution. In situ conservation of crop genetic resources through maintenance of traditional farming systems.
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