Temporal dynamics of kernel set of tropical sweet maize (Zea mays L.) as influenced by genotype and mild drought


Maize grain yield is often affected by drought stress at flowering. Fast and synchronous emergence of silks probably is the key to high kernel set but non-destructive methods to follow the temporal grain set were missing. We solved this problem by marking flint kernels on the ears of sweet maize to reflect daily kernel set, as modern sweet maize is quite similar in vigor to field maize in Thailand. The effects of mild pre-anthesis drought stress and of the genotype were examined in two experiments (over two years both). The highest number of kernels resulted from pollination on the first or second day of silking. More than 90% of the kernels per ear were usually set by day four or five. Mild drought stress reduced the number of kernel-bearing positions along the ear as well as the number of kernels per position on each day of pollination in 2007 but there was no significant deviation in the principal grain set curve. As a consequence of mild drought stress, the differences in daily kernel set between the two water regimes were rather small compared to the differences among genotypes, for which genotype-specific deviations from the general pattern of daily kernel set were observed. Most important, a new tool exists now to reliably study variable stress situations, using normal grains on sweet maize ears or yellow grains on white grain ears as visual marker systems.


sweet maize; flowering dynamics; kernel set; visual markers; drought stress

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Maydica - A journal devoted to maize and allied species

ISSN: 2279-8013