Precision phenotyping for improving drought stress tolerant maize

Published on 23 March 2010

Research Areas



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Start Date: 1 January 2009 | End Date: 31 December 2012


Brief rational: Advances in molecular breeding techniques offer new avenues for the rapid development of improved germplasm for drought-prone environments. However, the accuracy of molecular breeding is strongly dependent on the quality of phenotyping. As costs associated with genotyping continue to decrease, precision phenotyping is now the bottleneck in germplasm improvement. Direct selection for yield remains the most important selection criteria for improving yield stability in drought-prone environments, however, the development of new phenotyping tools have the potential to reduce costs and speed up breeding progress.

The goal of the project is to enhance food security and raise incomes of resource-poor farming families and consumers in southern Asia (Thailand and South China) and eastern Africa (Kenya) by strengthening breeding capacities of NARS and local seed companies.

The purpose of the project is to provide poor farmers with maize more tolerant to diverse abiotic (mainly drought and low fertility) stresses by offering breeders of national programs and seed companies appropriate phenotyping technologies.

The project will generate the following outputs:

Output 1: New phenotyping platforms developed to speed breeding for drought and other abiotic stresses.

Output 2: Selection indices developed.

Output 3: Genes enhancing drought adaptation mapped.

Output 4: Strengthening capacity of southern Asian and eastern Africa breeding programs and local seed companies to serve stressed maize production environments.

Output 5: In the medium term (but obviously beyond the three years time of this project) maize varieties better adapted to drought and other abiotic stresses developed.

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2 Responses to “Precision phenotyping for improving drought stress tolerant maize”

  1. Dr. Md. Alamgir Miah says:

    How can we discard variable phenotypes of a single maize genotype while comparing diverse maize genotypes?

  2. Jill Cairns says:

    Dear Dr Md. Alamgir Miah,

    Yes, this is an issue. Variation within a single maize genotype in an experiment is normally related to variability environmental factors (we use genotyping to ensure the genotypes are homozygous). Within this project we have been monitoring sources of variation, particularly variation in key soil physical and chemical properties. We use this information to either block trials based on known variation or use it as a covariate within the analysis. For further information on this approach I refer you to Masuka et al. 2012 (Journal of Integrative Plant Biology 54, 239-249). In addition, the broad sense heritability of trials gives me confidence the variation we phenotype is largely due to genetic differences.

    Kind regards,
    Jill Cairns

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