Crop: Zea mays L. spp. mays (Maize)

‘Nostrano di Storo’ (Zea mays var. indurata L.) is characterised by a small short ear. The landrace has a yield of about 4 tons per ha (Lucchin et al. 2003), 57% lower of the Italian average maize yield (9.3 tons/ha in 2017) (FAOSTAT 2019) that mainly relies on the cultivation of maize hybrids. Within the cultivation area the landrace is generally sown in May and harvested in October. Sowing seed rate is about 15 kg/ha (6 plants/m2).

Within this landrace it is possible to distinguish 26 morphotypes. The kernel is vitreous, in different shades of red-copper colour and arranged in 14 rows. The flour produced using ‘Nostrano di Storo’ is typically used to produce a deep-yellow cornmeal mush (in Italian ‘polenta’) (Pallottini 2002). Quality of the product and adaptation to the area are among the possible reasons for its maintenance across time.

The whole cultivated area is managed using a programmatic rotation system: each year, about 20% of the area is cultivated with other crops, typically potato, soft wheat or buckwheat. In order to ensure and facilitate the crop rotation, the cooperative ‘Agri90’ also commercialise the three above-mentioned crops.

Cultivation System: conventional conditions.

Geographical Information

Country: Italy

‘Nostrano di Storo’ is traditionally cultivated in the ‘Chiese’ valley (Trentino-Alto Adige Region, Province of Trento) over an area of approximately 350 ha. The landrace is produced under the Municipalities of Storo, Bondone, Condino, Bleggio Superiore, Comano Terme, Fiavè and Stenico.

Farmer(s) description:

Within the cultivation area, farms producing ‘Nostrano di Storo’ are grouped in a cooperative, funded in 1990, and named ‘Agri 90’. At the time the cooperative aimed at promoting the use and the commercialisation of the landrace as, at the end of the 80s, its cultivation was very limited. Currently, the cooperative groups more than 100 farmers producing circa 1500 tons of ‘Nostrano di Storo’. 80% of the farmers cultivate ‘Nostrano di Storo’ in small fields (from 2,000 to 10,000 square meters) as integration of their family income. The other 20% is cultivated in bigger farms where the cultivation of the landrace is carried out on larger areas.

Propagation system: Seed, cross-pollination

Multiplication procedures and consequences on landrace diversity:

Maize is a predominantly allogamous species. In the ‘Nostrano di Storo’ landrace, it is the cooperative that oversees its seed multiplication. Every year, some of the members ‒ especially the ones holding long-time expertise ‒ select a fraction of their fields in which they carry out manual harvest of the ears by discarding plants not corresponding to the 26 morphotypes constituting the ‘Nostrano di Storo’. In order to avoid cross-pollination with maize hybrid-varieties (or other varieties) the selected fields must be surrounded by other crops or ‘Nostrano di Storo’ itself. After the harvest, the ears are carefully tied together (20-30 ears) and dried (natural air drying). When humidity of the kernel reaches 13-14% (typically at the end of March) the farmers and experts of the cooperative select ears according to their colour, size and number and appearance of the rows. Once the best ears are chosen, only the seeds located in the central part of the ear are picked for seed. The procedure occurs every year in multiple locations. All the seeds are than bulked together and distributed to all the members of the cooperative according to their needs.

The multiplication procedure effectively ensures preservation of the peculiar morphological features of the landrace, reducing the risk of cross-pollination events with other maize varieties, that might lead to the loss of some of the particular traits of ‘Nostrano di Storo’.

Management plan existence:

The landrace management relies completely on farming activities in the area and is supervised by the cooperative ‘Agri 90’. Currently, no technical or scientific support is given by local authorities.

Added Values

Market - existing and novel:

Successful cooperation allowed the market of ‘Nostrano di Storo’ to grow exponentially. In particular, the establishment of the Agri 90 cooperative allowed the farmers to have the facility of processing the products and place them on the local and national market. ‘Nostrano si Storo’ is commercialised directly as flour or as ready-to-cook cornmeal mush. The market value is estimated around 2 million euros.

Others (e.g. commercial/geographical brands or special traits):

‘Nostrano di Storo’ is registered as conservation variety in the European Common Catalogue of Conservation Varieties following the Commission Directive 2008/62/CE of 20 June 2008.

During the period 1998-2000, a project funded by the Province of Trento, allowed the genetic and morphologic characterisation of the landrace. All the scientific activities were carried out at the University of Padova (Italy).

Accessions of different ‘Nostrano di Storo’ are kept, under long terms storage conditions in the germplasm bank of the ‘Consiglio per la Ricerca in Agricoltura e l’Analisi Economica Agraria - Unità di Ricerca per la Maiscoltura’ (CREA-MAC, Council for Agricultural Research and Economics, Maize Research Station) in Bergamo (FAO ITA-383).

The high quality of the product and the clever actions of the farmers in promoting the value of the landrace, its productive chain and market allowed not only the rescue, but also the establishment of a fruitful business based on this genetic resource. ‘Nostrano di Storo’ represents a successful case of on-farm conservation which also preserves agronomic techniques and cultural heritages of the past.

This landrace is registered in the European Common Catalogue of Varieties as Conservation Variety. Seed can be retrieved on the market following the provisions of the Commission Directive 2008/62/CE of 20 June 2008.

Case study provided by Dipartimento di Scienze Agrarie, Alimentari e Ambientali (DSA3), Università degli Studi di Perugia (UNIPG), Italy.

Most of updates have been communicated by Arturo Donati (‘Agri 90’ cooperative).

Lucchin M, Barcaccia G, Parrini P (2003) Characterization of a flint maize (Zea mays L. convar. mays) Italian landrace: I. Morpho-phenological and agronomic traits. Genet Resour Crop Evol 50:315–327. doi: 10.1023/A:1023578207258

Pallottini L (2002) Variazione della strutura genetica delle popolazioni in relazione alle diverse modalità di conservazione del germoplasma(on-farm, in situ ed ex situ) in varietà locali di mais: il caso di studio ‘Nostrano di Storo’ (Zea mays var. indurata). Università degli Studi di Perugia.