Characterization of maize testing locations in eastern and southern Africa



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Texas A&M University


The region of eastern and southern Africa is very diverse in environments and agronomic practices. The region has one of the highest per capita consumption of maize (Zea mays. L), which is predominantly produced by smallholder farmers. Some important constraints facing these farmers include drought and low fertility. For decades, the International Center for Wheat and Maize Improvement (CIMMYT) has been involved in developing maize genotypes that have high grain yields and are tolerant to drought, low fertility and other important constraints. This germplasm is developed for wide adaptation. However, the development of superior germplasm is significantly affected by interaction between genotypes and the environment (i.e., genotype by environment interaction, GEI). To estimate and understand GEI maize genotypes are evaluated in a range of environments representing as much variability of the target growing areas as possible. Because of dwindling resources needed to conduct testing in the region, it may not be possible to test in all potential target areas. Therefore, a careful process of site selection for testing is essential to improve efficiencies in cultivar testing and deployment. The objective of this research was to characterize the maize testing locations of the eastern and southern Africa region. Historical data from CIMMYT Regional Trials from 1999 to 2003 was used to characterize the environments and estimate genetic parameters. Environmnent and GEI showed consistently high contributions to the total variation observed among genotypes for grain yield. Environment contributed over 60% and sometimes up to 85% of total variation observed. Sequential retrospective pattern analysis (Seqret) was conducted on the adjusted standardized grain yield. A total of 7 groups of environments were identified. Repeatabilites, a measure of the proportion of phenotypic variation that is due to genetic differences, was reduced under stress conditions. The relationship among traits showed that anthesis-silking interval (ASI) is an important selective trait, which can improve selection efficiency for grain yield under stress conditions. Stability analysis provided an opportunity to observe the response and adaptation of genotypes to a wide range of environments. Variety ZM621 was a stable and high yielding genotype.