Climatic and genotypic effects for grain yield in maize under stress conditions

Climate change is expected to affect agriculture. Yield stability across environments is a critical breeding goal when dealing with unstable climate and input reductions in farming systems. The objective of this study was to determine climatic and genetic factors contributing to genotype (G), environment (E), and genotype x environment (GE) variability for maize (Zea mays L.) grain yield under some stress conditions like drought, cold, and pest attack. A large sample of Spanish maize populations was evaluated along with checks at three diverse locations during 3 yr. Factorial regression was performed to obtain a biological explanation of the G, E, and GE interaction for yield. The commercial hybrids had more yield and stability than most populations; therefore, breeding programs focusing on yield have released hybrids with high yield and stability under stress conditions. The populations with a reasonable compromise between yield and stability were Andoain and Lira. The main genotypic covariate was kernel depth, followed by ear length, although other covariates were important for each location. The main climatic covariates for yield were related to days with mean temperature over 15°C and maximum temperature in September, but they were not consistent across locations. Therefore, if yield under stress conditions is a breeding goal, several climatic variables, especially those related to high temperatures, and genotypic traits such as kernel depth and ear length should be considered.

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