Why SR52 is such a great maize hybrid.
Maize is Africa’s most important food crop. Unfortunately a yield gap currently exists in Africa which can be attributed to the use of inferior maize varieties such as open-pollinated varieties, double and three-way cross hybrids. Single cross maize hybrids, such as the world’s first commercial hybrid, SR52, have a higher yield potential, which is reflected by the doubling of maize yields in southern and eastern Africa by SR52, within a decade of its release. The main objective of this study was to determine the genetic basis behind SR52’s high yield potential and heterosis. This was established through a generation mean and path coefficient analysis of the SR52 maize hybrid. Research to determine genetic basis of yield and secondary trait was conducted using a randomized complete block design at two sites during the 2012/13 season, in South Africa. Six derivative generations of SR52 namely, its two parents N3 and SC, F1 and F2, and F1 backcross progenies (BC1N3 and BC1SC) were evaluated. A generation mean analysis was performed using PROC GLM procedures in SAS computer software program. High levels of mid-parent heterosis for grain yield potential was confirmed and ranged from 140% at Cedara to 311% at Ukulinga. The additive-dominance model was not adequate to explain the yield potential of SR52. Although negligible (less than 10%), epistatic gene effects were also influential (P<0.01) on grain yield and its components in SR52. The dominance and additive gene effects were highly significant (P<0.01), but dominance effects were the most influential. Correlation and path coefficient analysis of SR52’s segregating F2 and BC1 populations was performed in SAS. Most secondary traits, such as ear mass, ear length, total number of kernels per ear and plant height, were significant (P<0.05) and positively correlated with yield. However, the ear length, number of kernel rows, kernels per row and 100-kernel mass displayed the largest direct effects on yield of SR52, while indirect effects of secondary traits were small. The presence of genetic variation, as well as transgressive segregants for the yield components indicates possibility for extracting new germplasm lines with the desired QTL’s. It is concluded that SR52 is such an exceptional hybrid because of dominance gene action and direct contribution of superior cob length, number of kernel rows and mass of kernels to yield.
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