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Structure of local adaptation across the landscape: flowering time and fitness in Mexican maize (Zea mays L. subsp. mays) landraces
- Mercer, Kristin L., Perales, Hugo
- Genetic resources and crop evolution 2019 v.66 no.1 pp. 27-45
- Zea, altitude, climate change, corn, crops, cultivars, evolutionary adaptation, farming systems, flowering date, landraces, landscapes, phenotype, Mexico
- In crop centers of origin and diversity, often biotic and abiotic conditions vary across the landscape creating the possibility for local adaptation of crops, whereby local landraces perform better than non-local ones under local conditions. By studying patterns of local adaptation we can better understand the degree of adaptation of landraces, phenotypic mechanisms driving that adaptation, and the plastic responses of adapted populations to environmental change. Studying these basic processes in crop centers of origin and diversity improves basic understanding of adaptive evolution and provides insight for existing farming systems encountering climate change. Using maize landraces collected and reciprocally transplanted in the field in two years along an elevational gradient in Chiapas, Mexico, we aimed to understand their degree of local adaptation, the distribution of adaptive diversity within elevations, and how landraces compared to improved varieties in their responses to environmental variation. We found some patterns consistent with local adaptation among the landraces, although the degree of adaptation differed across measures of fitness components and years. Flowering time variables showed more variability within elevations than total fitness estimates or fitness components did. Improved varieties, like low elevation landraces, were not well-adapted to conditions at higher elevations, although they did possess some beneficial traits. These data reaffirmed experimentally the local adaptation of landraces and their difficulty in reproducing under novel conditions, and indicated the importance of landraces for high productivity (especially in middle and high elevation systems).