Breeding maize for a bioeconomy: a literature survey examining harvest index and stover yield and their relationship to grain yield
The use of maize (Zea mays L.) stover as a feedstock for cellulosic biofuels production will create demand for maize hybrids with greater stover yield. It is expected that grain yield will remain the most critical trait and continue to drive hybrid sales, requiring that any increases in stover yield be made without sacrificing grain yield potential. The objective of this review was to determine the relationship between grain yield, harvest index, and stover yield to illuminate the potential for increasing both grain and stover yield through breeding. In contrast to what has been observed in other crops, gains in maize grain yield over time in the U.S. Corn Belt have been accompanied by increases in stover yield. Where recurrent selection on grain yield has been most successful, stover yield also increased while harvest index has been relatively stable. The opposite situation has been observed in tropical germplasm, where gains in grain yield have been associated with increasing harvest index and relatively constant biomass yield. We expect that stover yield of Corn Belt hybrids will continue to increase along with grain yield, resulting in future hybrids capable of producing both more food and biofeedstock for energy production. If maize breeders pursue selection for increased stover yield, we found no evidence to suggest that breeding for stover yield will necessarily reduce rate of gain in grain yield.