Peruvian Maca ( Lepidium peruvianum) - III: The Effects of Cultivation Altitude on Phytochemical and Genetic Differences in the Four Prime Maca Phenotypes

Int J Biomed Sci. 2017 Jun;13(2):58-73.


In two trials, dietary and Glucosinolates' characteristics in four Maca phenotypes have been examined with an extension into the determination of DNA sequences. Hypocotyls of the four prime phenotypes of Peruvian Maca - Lepidium peruvianum Chacon, labelled as "Yellow", "Black", "Red" and "Purple" were separated from mixed Maca crops cultivated in four geographically-distant locations in the Peruvian Andes at altitudes between 2,800m and 4,300 m a.s.l. It was found that at higher altitudes where Red and Purple Maca phenotypes were grown, the significantly higher (P<0.05) Glucosinolates' concentrations, adopted as the marker of Maca physiological activity, were observed with the Purple phenotype showing the highest Glucosinolates' content at 4,300m a.s.l., followed by the Red-coloured hypocotyls. Black Maca showed a reversal, but also a significant (P<0.05) trend, while the Yellow phenotype showed no visible altitude-inflicted response (P>0.05) and has consistently the lowest Glucosinolates content. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that the altitude at which Red, Purple and Black phenotypes of L. peruvianum are grown, may be responsible for the variation in physiologic functionalities, leading to different than expected specific therapeutic and health benefits induced by Maca phenotypes grown at diverse altitudes. Although promising, insufficiently precise differences in DNA sequences failed to distinguish, without any reasonable doubt, four Maca phenotypes cultivated either in the same or geographically-distant locations, and harvested at different altitudes a.s.l. Further research on DNA sequences is needed, with more primers and larger number of Maca phenotypes, considering biosynthesis of secondary metabolites and adaptation pathways induced by harsh environment at altitudes where Maca is cultivated.

Keywords: Altitudes; Four Phenotypes; Hypocotyls; Lepidium peruvianum; Maca; Phytochemistry.