Unlocking the Genetic Diversity of Maize Landraces with Doubled Haploids Opens New Avenues for Breeding

<div><p>Landraces are valuable genetic resources for broadening the genetic base of elite germplasm in maize. Extensive exploitation of landraces has been hampered by their genetic heterogeneity and heavy genetic load. These limitations may be overcome by the <i>in-vivo</i> doubled haploid (DH) technique. A set of 132 DH lines derived from three European landraces and 106 elite flint (EF) lines were genotyped for 56,110 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers and evaluated in field trials at five locations in Germany in 2010 for several agronomic traits. In addition, the landraces were compared with synthetic populations produced by intermating DH lines derived from the respective landrace. Our objectives were to (1) evaluate the phenotypic and molecular diversity captured within DH lines derived from European landraces, (2) assess the breeding potential (usefulness) of DH lines derived from landraces to broaden the genetic base of the EF germplasm, and (3) compare the performance of each landrace with the synthetic population produced from the respective DH lines. Large genotypic variances among DH lines derived from landraces allowed the identification of DH lines with grain yields comparable to those of EF lines. Selected DH lines may thus be introgressed into elite germplasm without impairing its yield level. Large genetic distances of the DH lines to the EF lines demonstrated the potential of DH lines derived from landraces to broaden the genetic base of the EF germplasm. The comparison of landraces with their respective synthetic population showed no yield improvement and no reduction of phenotypic diversity. Owing to the low population structure and rapid decrease of linkage disequilibrium within populations of DH lines derived from landraces, these would be an ideal tool for association mapping. Altogether, the DH technology opens new opportunities for characterizing and utilizing the genetic diversity present in gene bank accessions of maize.</p> </div>