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Recurrent selection for gray leaf spot (GLS) and phaeosphaeria leaf spot (PLS) resistance in four maize populations and heterotic classification of maize germplasm from western Kenya.

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Maize (Zea mays L.) production is constrained by a number of stresses, amongst the most important are gray leaf spot (GLS) caused by a fungus Cercospora zeaemaydis Tehon and E.Y. Daniels and Phaeosphaeria leaf spot (PLS) caused by Phaeosphaeria maydis (Henn.). The diverse germplasm comprising farmer collections and exotic material used in the medium and highland altitudes maize breeding programmes in western Kenya has not been improved for resistance to the two diseases. Heterotic patterns of germplasm from this region have also not been studied. Therefore, the objectives of this study were to (i) assess the prevalence, importance, and farmers’ perceptions of GLS and PLS, (ii) characterize maize germplasm collections into their heterotic groups and (iii) improve four maize populations for GLS and PLS resistance through recurrent selection. The participatory rural appraisal (PRA) was conducted at three sites in western Kenya during the 2005/2006 cropping season. Data was generated using a checklist in group discussions with 109 male and 123 female farmers as well as key informants. Constraints were identified and prioritised. The five most limiting, in order of importance, were low soil fertility, poor varieties and seed, drought, Striga, pests and diseases (GLS and PLS). Gray leaf spot and PLS were reported in all sites but farmers did not know the causes of these diseases. Farmers preferred local varieties Tiriki, Anzika and Kipindi due to their greater resistance to diseases than commercial hybrids. Farmer criteria for variety selection were low fertilizer, Striga and disease resistance, drought tolerance, closed tips, and high yield potential. Due to the high cost of hybrid seed farmers selected and planted their own seed from advanced generations from previous seasons. Across all the sites, yield gap between on-farm and expected yield potential was estimated as ranging from 4.73t ha-1 to 5.3t ha-1 mainly due to the identified constraints. Therefore maize breeding should focus on addressing important maize production constraints and farmers’ preferences identified in this study in developing varieties that will increase maize yields on-farm. During 2005/2006, seventy 77 testcrosses were developed through crossing 47 germplasm collections with four population testers, Kitale synthetic II (KSII), Ecuador 573 (EC 573), Pool A and Pool B. Crosses and testers were evaluated at Kakamega during 2006/2007 in a 9 x 9 triple lattice design. Significant (p < 0.05) differences in grain yield, ear height, days to 50% anthesis, GLS and PLS resistance were observed. Both general and specific combining ability effects (GCA and SCA, respectively) were significant (p < 0.01), with SCA accounting for more than 50% of the variation for GLS, PLS and yield and less than 50% for ear height, days to 50% anthesis and silk. This indicated that both additive and non-additive gene effects were important but non-additive gene effects were more important in conditioning these traits. High SCA effects indicated high heterosis between collections and populations. Both yield heterosis and SCA were used to study heterotic patterns, but percentage yield heterosis data was used to classify these materials into heterotic groups. Based on significance (p < 0.05) of percentage yield heterosis as a primary factor for classification, seven collections were classified to Pool A, 17 to Pool B, 12 to KSII and 6 to EC 573 heterotic groups. The study indicated that germplasm collections belong to distinct heterotic groups therefore they can be infused into these populations (Pool A, Pool B, KSII and EC 573). Four populations, KSII, EC 573, Pool A and Pool B were subjected to one cycle of reciprocal recurrent selection (RRS) and two cycles of simple recurrent selection (SRS) during the 2004-2006 cropping seasons at Kakamega. Response to selection was assessed by evaluating C0, C1 and C2 and four commercial checks in a randomised complete block design in three replications at Kakamega and Kitale during 2007. All cycles except C0 of Pool A were more resistant to GLS than the three checks, H623, KSTP94 and PHB3253. Response to selection for GLS was significant (p < 0.01) in the desired direction. Gains ranged from -32.2% to 6.4% cycle-1 for RRS and 0.0% to -61.3% cycle-1 for SRS. Heritability estimates of between 59% and 76.3% for GLS and 39% and 80% for PLS were observed indicating that both GLS and PLS can be improved through selection. Significant negative correlations between GLS and yield were observed in Pool A C0 (r = -0.947, p < 0.01) and between yield and PLS in Pool A C0 (r = -0.926, p < 0.01). These indicated gain in yield as GLS and PLS were selected against. Generally, SRS out performed RRS method both in genetic gain and time, as indicated by gain of -61% for SRS and -32.2% for RRS, respectively. Two cycles of selection were achieved in two years with SRS as compared to only one with RRS. These results clearly demonstrated that it is possible to improve for GLS resistance using simple and reciprocal recurrent selection methods. The main constraints to maize production in Western Kenya were low soil fertility, Striga, drought, lack of seed and diseases. Farmers preferred varieties that can do well under the constraints mentioned. Local collections belonged to distinct heterotic groups with good resistance to GLS and PLS and were highly heterotic to four maize population testers with both SCA and GCA effects being important in conditioning GLS and PLS resistance. Recurrent selection methods were found to improve maize resistance to GLS and PLS. Breeding should therefore, focus in development of hybrids and improvement of populations using these local collections by employing SRS and RRS selection methods with identified constraints and farmer preferences in mind.


Thesis (Ph.D.) - University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2007.


Maize--Diseases and pests--Kenya., Maize--Disease and pest resistance--Genetic aspects., Maize--Breeding--Kenya., Maize--Kenya--Genetics., Fungal diseases of plants--Kenya., Leaf spots--Kenya., Maize--Varieties--Kenya., Plant breeding--Research--Africa., Selection (Plant breeding)--Africa., Theses--Plant breeding.