Evaluation of early maturing maize (zea mays L.) hybrids for multiple-stress tolerance.
Ndlala, Lucia Zinzi.
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Maize (Zea mays L.) is the most important cereal in Africa, but a number of constraints including biotic, abiotic and socio-economic factors affect its production. The abiotic factors such as drought, low nitrogen (N) and heat contribute to the low grain yield production, which creates a challenge that needs to be addressed by researchers. Thus, development and use of early maturing maize hybrids could help in stabilizing maize production. Early maturing maize hybrids help in reducing the growing period to escape some of the abiotic stresses that contains variability for high yield potential and adaptive traits. This study, therefore, was aimed at breeding and identifying early maturing maize hybrids cultivars that are tolerant to drought and low N stresses. Fifty early maturing maize hybrids including six commercial checks were evaluated under stress and non-stress environments during the 2016/17 maize growing season in South Africa. The objectives were (i) to estimate variance components, correlation and path coefficients among grain yield and secondary traits in early maturing maize hybrids across stress and non-stress environments and (ii) to evaluate genotype by environment interaction effects and stability for grain yield performance in early maturing maize hybrids across stress and non-stress environments. To estimate the variance components, correlation and path coefficients among grain yield and secondary traits in early maturing maize hybrids across stress and non-stress environments, quantitative traits data including grain yield and its secondary components were recorded. Statistical analyses revealed that the effect of genotype, environment and genotype by environment interaction were significant (P<0.01) for all the traits. Hybrids CZH16084, CZH16064 and CZH16095 under managed drought, low N and optimum environments, respectively, were identified as the outstanding genotypes for grain yield and recommended for further testing, release and registration. High magnitude of phenotypic and genotypic coefficient of variation as well as high heritability were recorded for each single environment for anthesis days, silking days, ear height and plant height, suggesting that those traits interacted with the environment. Grain yield was positively correlated with anthesis days and ear height, field weight, grain moisture at Potchefstroom while at Lutzville and Cedara had negative correlation with those traits, suggesting that the genotypes differed significantly for most of the phenotypic traits. Path coefficient analyses revealed that anthesis days and anthesis-silking interval had positive direct effects while silking days, plant height and ear per plant had a negative direct effect on grain yield in all the environments. These traits are recommended for effective selection to the improvement of maize grain yield. To evaluate genotype by environment interaction effects and stability for grain yield performance in early maturing maize hybrids across stress and non-stress environments, data collected from all environments which were Lutzville (managed drought), Potchefstroom (optimum), Cedara (optimum) and Cedara (low nitrogen) during the 2016/17 summer planting season, were subjected to ANOVA and GGE biplot analyses. Analysis of variance for individual environments showed that the genotype mean squares were significant at P<0.01. The ANOVA across environments showed that the genotype, environment and genotype by environment interaction mean squares were significant at P<0.01 for grain yield. From the GGE biplot analysis, the two principal components (PC1 and PC2) contributed 64.8% of the total variability due to genotypes plus genotype by environment interaction, with PC1 and PC2 accounting for 35.97% and 28.83%, respectively. The use of GGE biplot analyses provided a clear basis for determining the stability and performance of the 50 early maize hybrids and ranked them according to order. The best performing genotypes were G13 (CZH15448), G46 (CZH15574), G15 (local check 2), G33 (CZH16094), G7 (CZH16083), G20 (CZH16090) and G4 (CZH16089). The following hybrids were adapted to specific environments as follows: G26 (CZH16070), G34 (CZH16074), G9 (CZH15499) and G18(CZH16071) at Cedara (optimum) conditions; G46 (CZH15574), G40 (CZH16069) and G12 (CZH16080) excluding the checks G23 (local check 1) and G14 (SC301) at Potchefstroom (optimum); G22 (CZH16093), G6 (CZH15575), G49 (CZH16068) and G17 (CZH15600) excluding the check G15 (local check 2) at Cedara (low N) and G33 (CZH16094), G37 (CZH15184), G41 (CZH16082), G28 (CZH16076) and G8 (CZH16065) at Lutzville (managed drought). The GGE biplot analysis also identified nine stable and high yielding genotypes, which included G6 (CZH15575), G46 (CZH15574), G22 (CZH16093), G49 (CZH16068), G12 (CZH16080), G17 (CZH15600), G28 (CZH16076), G47 (CZH15452), and G8 (CZH16065). These genotypes will contribute to high maize yields and stable grain production in specific and across environments and are therefore, recommended for further testing and release.