Association of progeny variance and genetic distances among parents and implications for the design of elite maize breeding programs


Choice of crosses is crucial for a successful and sustainable management of breeding programs. Our objectives were to (1) investigate the association between the Rogers’ distances among parents and the genetic variance within their crosses (σ2 within) in elite maize breeding germplasm, (2) study whether this association can be improved selecting trait-specific markers, and (3) evaluate the consequences to implement the usefulness criterion based on Rogers’ distances on the optimum choice of crosses. Testcross performance of eleven segregating crosses with a total of 930 progenies was evaluated in six environments for grain yield (GY) and grain moisture content (GMC). Moreover, the 930 genotypes were fingerprinted with 425 polymorphic SNP markers. Our findings revealed that working within a heterotic group, σ2 within increased with increasing Rogers’ distances among the parents. This was more pronounced for GY (rP = 0.55 P < 0.1) compared to GMC (rP = 0.17). Selecting trait specific markers, which were associated with putative QTL affecting these traits, led for GY to a decrease in the association between σ2 within and Rogers’ distances among the parents. Consequently, using for GY a regression model based on Rogers’ distances estimated with an unselected set of markers allows a rough implementation of the usefulness criterion in maize breeding programs. Our model calculations suggested that implementing the usefulness criterion will facilitate a broadening of the diversity of elite maize breeding pools by counterbalancing a reduction in parental performance with an increase in σ2 within.


usefulness criterion, genetic distance, molecular markers, choice of crosses, maize

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Maydica - A journal devoted to maize and allied species

ISSN: 2279-8013