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Genetic analysis of drought-adaptive traits at seedling stage in early-maturing maize inbred lines and field performance under stress conditions

Adewale, S. A., Akinwale, R. O., Fakorede, M. A. B., Badu-Apraku, B.
Euphytica 2018 v.214 no.8 pp. 145
agroecology, agronomic traits, analysis of variance, corn, data collection, diallel analysis, drought, drought tolerance, genes, genetic analysis, genetic variation, germplasm, grain yield, hybridization, hybrids, inbred lines, inheritance (genetics), rain forests, seedlings, water stress, Western Africa
Maize hybrids that are tolerant to drought at the seedling stage are needed to boost productivity in the rainforest agro-ecology of West Africa. Genetics of tolerance of maize seedling to drought stress is not well understood and is poorly documented. The objectives of this study were to screen early-maturing maize lines for seedling drought tolerance, determine the inheritance and the combining ability of selected inbred lines, and evaluate the performance of seedling drought-tolerant hybrids under field conditions. Forty-nine early maize lines were screened for drought tolerance at the seedling stage. Ten drought-tolerant and two susceptible inbred lines were selected and used in diallel crosses to generate 66 hybrids. The twelve inbred lines and their hybrids were evaluated under induced drought at seedling stage in the screen house and under marginal growing conditions on the field for two seasons. Data collected were subjected to analysis of variance using the DIALLEL-SAS program. Mean squares for both GCA and SCA were significant for most traits in all research environments, indicating that additive and non-additive gene actions are controlling seedling traits under stress conditions. However, for most traits, SCA was preponderant over GCA in all environments, indicating overdominating effect of non-additive gene action. Which in turn implied that the best improvement method for the traits is hybridization. Inbred TZEI 7 had the best GCA effect for seedling traits under screenhouse conditions and for grain yield and other agronomic traits under drought conditions in the field. Hybrids TZEI 357 × TZEI 411 and TZEI 380 × TZEI 410 showed superior SCA effects under screen house conditions. In conclusion, the study established wide genetic variability for drought tolerance at seedling stage among tropical early-maturing maize germplasm however, the non-additive gene action was more important for most seedling traits.