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Revista mexicana de ciencias agrícolas

versão impressa ISSN 2007-0934

Rev. Mex. Cienc. Agríc vol.8 no.5 Texcoco Jun./Ago. 2017 


Farmers preferences for improved and native maize seeds in the Yucatán Península, Mexico

Nelda Guadalupe Uzcanga Pérez1  § 

Bertha Larqué Saavedra2 

Ana Lid Del Ángel Pérez3 

María Alma Rangel Fajardo1 

Alejandro de Jesús Cano González4 

1Campo Experimental Mocochá-INIFAP. Antigua Carretera Mérida-Motul km 25, Mocochá,Yucatán. CP. 97454.

2Campo Experimental Valle de México-INIFAP. Carretera Los Reyes-Texcoco km 13.5. Coatlinchán, Texcoco, Estado de México, México. AP. 10, CP. 56250. (

3Campo Experimental Cotaxtla-INIFAP. Medellín de Bravo, Veracruz, México. (

4INIFAP-CECODET. Calle 6, núm. 398 x13, Av. Correa Rachó. Col. Díaz Ordáz, Mérida, Yucatán, México. CP. 97130. Tel. 01 (999) 1961183, ext. 600. (


In order to provide information regarding farmers' preferences for improved and native maize seeds, a semi-structured questionnaire was applied to 210 maize producers from the highest-producing municipalities in the Yucatán Península of which five municipalities were located in Campeche, Two in Yucatán and one in Quintana Roo. The producers were randomly selected and the sample size was calculated with stratified sampling by classifying the producers into two groups or strata according to the planted area. Considering the number of years of use of the seed, the degree of satisfaction of the products obtained, the agronomic advantages of the seed and its availability in the market, an indicator was generated that allowed to classify the producers in three categories according to the adoption level of the seed component. As a result, only 97 farmers in the sample know the seeds generated by INIFAP (H-520 and VS-536). Of these, 16.7% started the adoption process and interrupted it, 7.1% knew it and adopted it, 12.9 % knew it, but did not adopt it. The native preferred materials of were Tzib-bacal and Tuxpeño for the preparation of tortillas, pozole and atole. Most of the interviewees are mainly engaged in agriculture and their production is marketed locally or in regional markets.

Keywords: improved seeds; maize; producer typology; technology adoption


Para proporcionar información referente a las preferencias de los agricultores por semillas mejoradas y nativas de maíz se aplicó un cuestionario semi estructurado a 210 productores de maíz pertenecientes a los municipios de mayor producción en la Península de Yucatán de los cuales cinco municipios se ubicaron en Campeche, dos en Yucatán y uno en Quintana Roo. Los productores fueron seleccionados aleatoriamente y el tamaño de muestra fue calculado con muestreo estratificado clasificando a los productores en dos grupos o estratos de acuerdo a la superficie sembrada. Considerando el número de años de uso de la semilla, el grado de satisfacción de los productos obtenidos, las ventajas agronómicas de la semilla y su disponibilidad en el mercado se generó un indicador que permitió clasificar a los productores en tres categorías según su nivel de adopción del componente semilla. Resultando que solo 97 agricultores de la muestra conocen las semillas generadas por el INIFAP (H-520 Y VS-536) y de estos, 16.7% iniciaron el proceso de adopción y lo interrumpieron, 7.1% si la conoce y si la adoptó, 12.9% si la conoce, pero no la adoptó. Los materiales nativos fueron Tzib-bacal y Tuxpeño para la elaboración de tortillas, pozole y atole. La mayoría de los entrevistados tienen como actividad principal la agricultura y su producción la comercializan localmente o en mercados regionales.

Palabras clave: adopción de tecnología; maíz; semillas mejoradas; tipología del productor


From the food, political, economic and social point of view, maize is the country's most important crop (Fernández, 2013) with a per capita consumption as tortilla of 70 kg (Salinas et al.., 2010). 80% of the sown area is under rainfed conditions (5 650 795.84 ha) mainly for self-consumption in small-scale producers. More than half of the national maize production comes from this system because it contributes to the food security of the rural strata with greater poverty (Turrent, 2012).

According to Turrent (2012), one of the strategies to mitigate the maize grain deficit, estimated at about 10 million tons per year, with an estimated value of 2.5 billion dollars, is to increase production through genetic improvement of hybrid varieties and irrigation efficiency.

In the agricultural year 2015, the area planted with maize grain in the Yucatán Península was 382 661.29 hectares, 96.6% under rainfed and 3.4% of irrigation. 66.1% of this area was planted with improved seed and the rest with native seed. From where 571 052.11 tonnes of grain were obtained mainly from the state of Campeche, which contributes with 76.3% of the total production of the region and occupies the 14th place in the national context (SIAP, 2015a; SIAP, 2015b).

As a whole, the Yucatán Península has a 2.3% share of the national maize grain production (SIAP a, 2015). However, this production requires a seed supply of approximately 7 168 tons, 38.4% corresponds to improved seed and 61.6% to native seed, with preference for the consumption of materials of white maize (95.3%) above the yellow ones (4.7%). However, in the region only 27 tons of seed are produced, implying a deficit of about 7 140 tons (García et al.., 2014).

At the national level, this seed is offered by the large companies that hold the market with a participation of 85.3%, followed by small companies with 9.1%, rural production companies with 3.8% and seeds that are produced by individuals and research institutions add up to 1.9% (García et al.., 2014).

This has resulted that in some isolated areas there is no access to seeds because they are not subject to credit or because the seed industry is not interested in these areas, because their earnings are unattractive (García et al.., 2014), as is the case of the Yucatán Península. As for commercial producers that usually have large tracts of cultivated land of more than 100 hectares (DPF, 2015), they have as seeds suppliers marketers such as Monsanto, Pioneer and Syngenta.

In a period from 1985 to 2009, the National Institute for Forestry, Agriculture and Livestock Research (INIFAP) has released about 43 improved maize seed materials between free and hybrid pollinated varieties for the humid tropic region, with the purpose of obtaining high yields and grain quality required by industrialists and consumers (Coutiño, 2008). However, this innovation has had a slow adoption process.

This study starts from considering that the adoption is a process conformed by a series of steps. For the American Association of Agricultural College Editors (quoted by Cadena et al.., 2009) it is made up of five stages: the first is knowing the existence of a new technology; the second stage is defined by the interest in integrating other individuals; the third arises from the personal interest of testing the technology in order to evaluate it; the fourth stage is that if the evaluation was positive the individual will be in a position to continue rehearsing it. The fifth step is adoption. Other authors consider that adoption is intimately linked to the phenomenon of change and position of the adopter facing innovation. They explain that adoption is due to several factors: technological variables (increased production, greater competitiveness), demographic and social variables, environmental variables such as market conditions, technology costs, public policies and personal variables: cognitive, affective and attitudinal. They consider adoption to be permeated with judgments, beliefs and social values (Roth and Clementi, 2010).

According to Aguilar et al.. (2005) farmers in the adoption process, should not be considered as passive agents willing to receive and apply technological packages, nor should it be thought that adoption finds constraints in the difficulties that the farmer faces to carry it out. This thought assumes that the farmer is always willing to assume the change, which is an aspect that is contrary with reality. Therefore, the main objective of this research was to identify the preferences of the producers for these seeds and to classify them by categories according to the adoption level.

Materials and methods

Fieldwork was carried out in the Yucatán Península in the main rainfed zones and with the largest area planted with maize, distributed as follows: five municipalities in the state of Campeche (Tenabo, Calkiní, Hopelchén, Hecelchakán and Campeche), one municipality of the state of Quintana Roo (Othón P. Blanco) and six municipalities of the state of Yucatán (Tekax, Oxcutzcab, Valladolid, Suma, Cansacab and Teya).

With information generated in two projects: integral management of the mechanizable soils heterogeneity of the Yucatán Península (Fiscal Project) (Uzcanga et al.., 2015) and evaluation of maize yield in ten municipalities in the state of Campeche during the cycle spring-summer 2013 (Uzcanga et al.., 2015) a database was integrated with information of the planted area per producer, which was completed with data provided by the Union of ejidos of Tekax, Yucatán, to finally get a sampling frame from 642 producers.

Sample size

Sample size was estimated with a random stratified sampling with proportional distribution, accuracy of 10% and 95% confidence (Taro, 1967). The sampling units were producers arranged in two strata according to the number of planted hectares per producer, so that the stratum K1 was integrated by producers with a half up to five planted hectares and stratum K2 of more than five hectares (Table 1). The sample size was calculated with the following equations:

n=Ni=1kNisni´2N2D2+i=1kNisni´2 ,  Donde D2=de2Zα/2 , de=0.1*x-e,  , x-e, =i=1kNi X-ni,N  , ni= NiN n

Table 1 Population elements and sample size by stratum. 

The information was collected through a questionnaire with a semi-structured script. Data were tabulated and analyzed using the predictive analytical software and solut (PASS) version 21 statistical package. There were used as a dependent variable (sown area, producer’s age, number of economic dependents, number of years knowing the seed) and independent (stratum) in order to calculate Levene’s test for variance homogeneity and to contrast the hypothesis H0:σ12= σ22= σ32. In addition, the means comparison was performed using one-way ANOVA and to contrast the hypothesis H0:µ1= µ2= µ3 and find significant differences per stratum (Perez, 2009; Nel, 2012).

With the data obtained from the questionnaire generated an indicator with values from 1 to 0.2 to evaluate the level of adoption of the seed technology component, was generated. This indicator considered that, if during a period of five years a farmer sows INIFAP’s seeds, there has been an adoption. To do so there were considered the years of seed use, the satisfaction degree of the obtained products, the agronomic advantages of the seed and its availability in the market. The indicator took a one value when the producer sowed the seed uninterruptedly. The value was 0.8 for farmers who during the five-year period sowed the seed in a fickle manner or are disrupting the adoption process. The indicator value varied from 0.4 to 0.6 depending on the number of years planting the seeds. The lowest level was 0.2 for the farmer who is initiating the adoption process, or that tested the seed and did not like it, so adoption was considered an unlikely process.

With this indicator, producers were typified into three categories: a) they knew it and adopted it; b) they knew it and started the adoption process but interrupted it; and c) they knew it but did not adopt it.

Results and discussion

The field work was conducted during the months of November and December 2014 and July to September 2015. During the practice, 210 questionnaires were applied from which 121 were from the K1 stratum and 89 from K2 stratum (Figure 1).

Figure 1 Spatial distribution of field work.  

Characteristics of maize farmers

Sociodemographic characteristics of respondents indicate that 95.5% has lived all their life in the locality, all were married men, with an average age of 54 years, no significant difference was shown at the Levene statistic (p= 0.209) for the variance homogeneity test and Anova (p= 0.273), because critical levels were calculated above 0.05. 56.2% of respondents have mainly primary studies (5.3 years), characteristic schooling of maize producers for the studied area (Uzcanga et al.., 2015). Likewise, there was no statistical difference between the number of economic dependents per stratum, which stood at 3.3 persons on average (Table 2).

Table 2 Characteristics of the producers sample. 

*Límite del intervalo de confianza para la media al 95%.

64.8% of the sample’s producers have maize as a main crop and 35.2% is engaged in some other activity in the agricultural sector: beekeeping, livestock and sowing other crops such as pineapple, sugar cane and henequen; there were also identified, albeit to a lesser extent, trades such as masonry, local transporters and employees of some business.

The production is marketed mainly in regional markets or locally placed in mills or among their neighbors as food for their animals.Another 38.2% of both agricultural and livestock producers produce maize mainly for their own consumption (Figure 2).

Figure 2 Main occupation of the sample of producers. 

Typification of farmers by category

Over a period of approximately 51 years (1964-2015) farmers in the study area reported being familiar with improved maize seeds. This boom in the knowledge of this type of seed occurred from 1997 to 2007 and from 2008 to 2015, periods that registered the highest frequency among farmers and coinciding with the period (1999 to 2010) of increased supply and demand of hybrids generated by INIFAP from 20 different crosses and parental lines (Larqué et al.., 2013).

On the other hand, among farmers of stratum K1 and K2 differences to establish an average and indicate how long since known improved seeds were found. For farmers of K1 stratum the average was 7 years, whereas for farmers of K2 stratum the average was 12 years. The majority agreed (34.3%), knowing the seed by a friend or family member who told them about it, (17.1%) by the technician of the Ministry of Agriculture Livestock Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA), in some demonstrating plot of another producer (13.3%), among the most significant.

Although respondents prefer to use improved seeds, it was identified that 53.8% of them did not know free pollinated varieties, improved native and hybrids from the INIFAP and for this reason they have never planted them, mainly farmers of the K1 stratum (31.4%) and with a lower percentage those from K2 (22.4%). The rest of the farmers (46.2%) reported knowing them, of which 33.3% have cultivated some variety, among which are the H-520 and VS-536, materials that adapt to the conditions of the Yucatán Península (Table 3).

Table 3. Maize varieties released and registered by INIFAP and identified by farmers. 

The results indicated that 16.7% of the farmers started the adoption process but at some point during the five years of evaluation they stopped using it, while another 12.9% said they knew the materials but had never cultivated them and only 7.1% have adopted varieties (Figure 3).

Figure 3 Scheme of preferences of INIFAP’s seeds from the farmers of the sample. 

When asked the reasons why they no longer continued planting, anwers was because there is not availability of seeds in the market and ignorance of how and where? to buy them and its yield benefits, which motivates the interest to try other improved seeds by another institution or company. In this sense Flores and García (2016) emphasize that the adoption of improved seeds implies a cost and that the lack of knowledge about the possible benefits in yield is a determining factor when adopting the technology or not.

There are studies such as those presented by Kafle (2010), where they establish that the factors that determine the adoption of improved seeds are socio-economic. These results are reinforced by various authors in different conditions such as the case of Zambia presented by Kalinda et al.. (2014) where they conclude that the adoption of improved seeds showed a positive relation with the size of the farm or that for estates rented or greater than one hectare, farmers prefer to invest in improved seed with the whole technological package to ensure the yields (Sserunkuuma, 2005).

In Mexico, the states of Baja California and Sonora report the highest adoption of improved materials, but their agricultural areas are greater than 12 ha (García and Ramírez, 2012). Another factor that is involved in the adoption of these technologies is the poverty level in the region (Bernard et al.., 2010) which affects producer income which is another determining factor in the adoption rate (Flores and García, 2016).

Another factor that influences the preference for certain maize, is related to its final use, for the production of fresh dough and tortillas, the demand is for white maize (56.2%) and to a lesser extent for yellow (37.1%), purple (3.4%), red (2.2%) and tinted (1.1%).

This preference detected in the Yucatán Península is valid for all Mexico (Coutiño et al.., 2008). For example, the genotypes H-563, H-520 and VS-536 identified by the farmers of the Península, are white-grained and have physical characteristics of nixtamalera quality suitable for the dough and tortilla industry. The first is from Guerrero and the other two are from Veracruz and in general, commercial white maize released into areas of the humid tropics are suitable for this industry (Salinas et al.., 2010).

However, although improved varieties have shown to be superior to native ones, there are other factors such as purchasing power and crop extension that influence the preference of small farmers over local varieties. In addition the added value on tradition, that these genetic materials have been developed by farmers through multiple cycles of empirical selection and preserved and handled under a scheme of traditional agriculture as a complex system of seeds (Aragón et al.., 2006; Gaytan et al.., 2013).

The research identified that 83.8% of the sampled farmers have once sown native breeds, among which Dzit-bacal stands out (Figure 4).

Figure 4 Scheme of preferences of INIFAP’s seeds from the farmers of the sample. 

These landraces have a wide variety of applications as indicated by Narvaez-González et al.. (2007), who have identified at least three uses, for example Dizt-bacal is used for tortillas, snacks, the Tuxpeño in addition to the preparation of tortillas and other related products is also used for the elaboration of atoles and beverages such as pozol just like the Olotillo and Tepecintle (Fernández et al.., 2013) (Figure 5).

Figure 5 Scheme of preferences of INIFAP’s seeds from the farmers of the sample. 

The quality criteria reported for common uses of maize indicate that outstanding landraces for making tortillas are Tuxpeno and Olotillo for having hard or semi hard grains, and other well suitable features for this purpose (Fernández et al.., 2013).

Additionally, the preference for these landraces is influenced by the advantages showed to suit edafo-climatically- limited land (Turrent et al.., 2012). In addition to adaptation and stability to local climatic conditions, therefore low demand for agricultural labor by reducing labor costs and inputs needed for production (Fernández et al.., 2013).

In this regard, some agronomic advantages were identified by farmers by type of seed used, standing out the yield for improved varieties, longer shelf life and greater tolerance to drought for native breeds (Table 4).

Table 4 Agronomic advantages by type of seed according to the farmer’s opinion. 

Attitude of the farmer to technological innovations

The work model used by INIFAP comprises four stages: 1) experimentation: in which the knowledge that supports the technology is generated; 2) validation: a process in which the applicability of research results in the commercial context is evaluated; 3) transfer: activity that is carried out with the diffusion of the technological innovations to the users; and 4) adoption: defined by the incorporation of the technological component into the production system (Laird, 1977).

Authors such as Rogers and Svenning (1979), indicate that the spirit of innovation, understood by the degree of anticipation with which the individual adopts new ideas with respect to other members of the community, is essential for the adoption of a technological innovation, where diffusion has an important role.

In this sense, it was identified that 47.1% of the farmers in the sample know what do some of the agricultural research institutions do such as the Autonomous University of Chapingo, Postgraduate College, CIMMYT and INIFAP, of these, 86.9% consider that what they do is useful, but only 40% of the total number of producers in the sample seeks the means to be informed about the technological innovations with respect to their crops.

Since the decision to innovate is taken by each individual and the adoption rate is estimated by the proportion of individuals accepting the innovation in a given period, it could be assumed that the adoption rate of INIFAP’s improved seed, during the last five years for the Yucatán Península, was 7.1%. Which is a low percentage explained by the heterogeneous demand for improved seeds in rainfed areas and therefore the adoption of these materials is uncertain (Donnet, 2012).

One of the reasons why the adoption of improved seeds has been very slow by farmers, is due according to Guillen et al.. (2002), to the producer’s perception of the benefits of native breeds beyond yield, since hybrids are commonly associated with limited gains versus their high technological package costs. In addition, the size of the farm and the income per hectare are the main factors for the adoption of improved seeds (García-Salazar and Guzmán-Soria, 2015).

Although the use of improved seeds has increased over the past 15 years, the adoption pattern has been patchy and its use has been concentrated in areas of commercial production such as the northeast and El Bajío (García and Ramírez, 2014).


Despite knowing about the existence of INIFAP’s improved seeds, the adoption process is interrupted by factors such as the availability of these seeds in the market or the lack of resources for acquiring them; however, producers who have preferred these improved seeds have been inclined to the H-520 and VS-536 varieties, both suitable materials for the humid tropics.

There are producers who are not interested in adopting any improved material due to the extension of planting and attachment to creole materials of the Dzit-bacal and Tuxpeño breeds, which the producers stated, show favorable adaptation characteristics in the field and the products elaborated from the harvests (tortillas, masa, atole and pozol) satisfies their organoleptic requirements.

There is a lack of diffusion among the producers of the materials that have been generated in INIFAP, as well as searching for strategies and alternatives to meet market needs.

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Received: May 2017; Accepted: August 2017

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