Formation of heterotic groups and understanding genetic effects in a provitamin a biofortified maize breeding program
Willy B. Suwarno, Kevin V. Pixley, Natalia Palacios-Rojas, Shawn M. Kaeppler and Raman Babu
Developing biofortified maize cultivars is a viable approach to combat the widespreadproblem of vitamin A deficiency among people for whom maize is a staple food. To enhance CIMMYT?s provitamin A maize breeding efforts, this study: 1) evaluated whether separation of experimental maize lines into groups based on maximizing their molecular-marker-based genetic distances (GD) resulted in heterosis for among-group crosses, 2) assessed genetic effects (general and specific combining ability, GCA and SCA) for grain yield and provitamin A concentrations in hybrids among 21 inbred lines representing the three proposed groups, and 3) assessed the association between grain yield and provitamin A concentrations. The lines were crossed following a partial diallel design resulting in 156 hybrids which were evaluated at four environments with two replications of one-row plots. The first plant in each plot was self-pollinated to produce grain for provitamin A analysis. Significant but small yield advantage of among versus within group crosses (0.47 Mg ha-1 21 , P<0.05) suggested that the groups identified by maximizing GD could be a practicalstarting point for further breeding work to develop useful heterotic groups. Furthermore, the GD-proposed heterotic groups were improved by later revising some line assignments to groups using estimates of SCA effects. GCA effects were significant (P<0.01) for all traits, whereas SCA effects were weak (P<0.05) or not significant for provitamin A carotenoid concentrations, indicating that these were controlled primarily by additive gene action. Grain yield was not significantly correlated with provitamin A concentration, indicating that both traits could be improved simultaneously.