Stacking Tolerance to Drought and Resistance to a Parasitic Weed in Tropical Hybrid Maize for Enhancing Resilience to Stress Combinations
Maize is a food security crop cultivated in the African savannas that are vulnerable to the occurrence of drought stress and Striga hermonthica infestation. The co-occurrence of these stresses can severely damage crop growth and productivity of maize. Until recently, maize breeding in International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has focused on the development of either drought tolerant or S. hermonthica resistant germplasm using independent screening protocols. The present study was therefore conducted to examine the extent to which maize hybrids simultaneously expressing resistance to S. hermonthica and tolerance to drought (DTSTR) could be developed through sequential selection of parental lines using the two screening protocols. Regional trials involving 77 DTSTR and 22 commercial benchmark hybrids (STR and non-DTSTR) were then conducted under Striga-infested and non-infested conditions, managed drought stress and fully irrigated conditions as well as in multiple rainfed environments for 5 years. The observed yield reductions of 61% under managed drought stress and 23% under Striga-infestation created desirable stress levels leading to the detection of significant differences in grain yield among hybrids at individual stress and non-stress conditions. On average, the DTSTR hybrids out-yielded the STR and non-DTSTR commercial hybrids by 13–19% under managed drought stress and fully irrigated conditions and by −4 to 70% under Striga-infested and non-infested conditions. Among the DTSTR hybrids included in the regional trials, 33 were high yielders with better adaptability across environments under all stressful and non-stressful testing conditions. Twenty-four of the 33 DTSTR hybrids also yielded well across diverse rainfed environments. The genetic correlations of grain yield under managed drought stress with yield under Striga-infestation and multiple rainfed environments were 0.51 and 0.57, respectively. Also, a genetic correlation between yields under Striga-infestation with that recorded in multiple rainfed environments was 0.58. These results suggest that the sequential selection scheme offers an opportunity to accumulate desirable stress-related traits in parents contributing to superior agronomic performance in hybrids across stressful and diverse rainfed field environments that are commonly encountered in the tropical savannas of Africa.
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