Chilling tolerance of Central European maize lines and their factorial crosses

S U Bhosale, B Rymen, G T S Beemster, A E Melchinger, J C Reif
Annals of Botany 2007, 100 (6): 1315-21

BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Chilling-stress tolerance is a prerequisite for maize production under cool climatic conditions. The main goal of this study was to evaluate the Central European dent and flint pools for chilling tolerance during heterotrophic and early autotrophic growth in field trials and growth chamber experiments.

METHODS: Five European flint and five dent inbreds and their 25 factorial crosses were evaluated in six natural environments, where chilling occurred, for chlorophyll concentration and plant height at the three-leaf stage, and plant height and fresh weight at the seven-leaf stage. In growth chambers, leaf 3 growth was analysed under cold and control conditions.

KEY RESULTS: Comparing the field and growth chamber data, the strongest association was found between leaf elongation rate during cold nights and plant height at the three-leaf stage, with a weaker association with the seven-leaf stage. In the field, moderate correlations were observed between plant height at the three-leaf stage, and plant height and fresh weight at the seven-leaf stage, respectively. Furthermore, mid-parent and hybrid performance were only moderately correlated.

CONCLUSIONS: The results suggest that heterotrophic and early autotrophic growth stages are controlled by different genetic factors or that maternal effects play a role. In addition, the findings showed that mid-parent performance is a poor predictor of hybrid performance. Consequently, test cross performance should be the target in quantitiative trait locus (QTL) mapping studies with the final goal of establishing marker-assisted breeding programmes for chilling-tolerant hybrids.

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