Main content area

Maize kernel color depends on the interaction between hardness and carotenoid concentration

Saenz, Ezequiel, Abdala, Lucas J., Borrás, Lucas, Gerde, José A.
Journal of cereal science 2020 v.91 pp. 102901
Zea mays, carotenoids, color, corn, endosperm, flour, food industry, genotype, hardness, hybrids
Maize kernel color and carotenoid concentration are traits valued by the food industry to ensure the quality of their products. Correlations between color and carotenoid concentration have been extensively reported. Based on the concept that chromaticity is modified differently by opaque and translucent materials, we tested the hypothesis that maize kernel color is not only the result of total carotenoid concentration but also a consequence of kernel hardness. Kernel hardness (test weight, vitreousness, and floaters percentage), carotenoid concentration, and color (HunterLab) were measured in thirteen commercial hybrids. Genotypes showed significant differences in all analyzed kernel hardness traits, carotenoid concentration (24.7–39.4 mg kg⁻¹), and HunterLab color dimensions. Kernel color values and kernel hardness were correlated. Genotype differences in b (yellowness) were observed in kernels with similar total carotenoid concentration but contrasting hardness. For a similar carotenoid concentration harder genotypes always showed lower b values. When whole kernels were milled and color was measured on the resulting flour, genotype differences in yellowness disappeared, further supporting that the kernel vitreous structure affects kernel color. Our results sustain the notion that the genotype capacity to form larger proportions of vitreous endosperm impacts color regardless of total carotenoid concentration.