Diversity and path coefficient analysis of southern African maize hybrids

Lorraine Mhoswa1, John Derera1, Fikile N.P. Qwabe2, and Tatenda R. Musimwa1*
Detailed knowledge on genetic diversity among germplasm is important for hybrid maize (Zea mays L.) breeding. The objective of the study was to determine genetic diversity in widely grown hybrids in Southern Africa, and compare effectiveness of phenotypic analysis models for determining genetic distances between hybrids. Fifty hybrids were evaluated at one site with two replicates. The experiment was a randomized complete block design. Phenotypic and genotypic data were analyzed using SAS and Power Marker respectively. There was significant (p < 0.01) variation and diversity among hybrid brands but small within brand clusters. Polymorphic Information Content (PIC) ranged from 0.07 to 0.38 with an average of 0.34 and genetic distance ranged from 0.08 to 0.50 with an average of 0.43. SAH23 and SAH21 (0.48) and SAH33 and SAH3 (0.47) were the most distantly related hybrids. Both single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers and phenotypic data models were effective for discriminating genotypes according to genetic distance. SNP markers revealed nine clusters of hybrids. The 12-trait phenotypic analysis model, revealed eight clusters at 85%, while the five-trait model revealed six clusters. Path analysis revealed significant direct and indirect effects of secondary traits on yield. Plant height and ear height were negatively correlated with grain yield meaning shorter hybrids gave high yield. Ear weight, days to anthesis, and number of ears had highest positive direct effects on yield. These traits can provide good selection index for high yielding maize hybrids. Results confirmed that diversity of hybrids is small within brands and also confirm that phenotypic trait models are effective for discriminating hybrids.
Keywords: Genetic diversity, grain yield, phenotypic traits, SNP markers, Zea mays.
1University of KwaZulu-Natal, School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Science, Private Bag X01, Scottsville, Pietermaritzburg 3209, South Africa. *Corresponding author (musimwatate@gmail.com).
2KwaZulu-Natal Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Private Bag X9059, Pietermaritzburg, 3209, South Africa.