Will future maize improvement programs leverage the canopy light-interception, photosynthetic, and biomass capacities of traditional accessions?

PeerJ. 2023 Apr 27;11:e15233. doi: 10.7717/peerj.15233. eCollection 2023.


Maize germplasm has greater latent potential to address the global food and feed crisis because of its high radiation, water and nutrient efficiencies. Photosynthetic and canopy architectural traits in maize are important in determining yield. The present study aimed to screen a subset of local maize accessions in Sri Lanka to evaluate their photosynthetic, biomass and yield related traits and to identify resource efficient germplasm. Experiments were carried out in the Ampara district of Sri Lanka. Eight maize accessions viz; SEU2, SEU6, SEU9, SEU10, SEU14, SEU15, SEU17 and SEU17 and two elite F1 cultivars (cv. Pacific-999 and cv. Bhadra) were analyzed under field conditions. Our results showed that maize genotypes produced a lower leaf area index (LAI) at the third and tenth week after field planting (WAP). However, the LAI was significantly increased in six WAP by Pacific-999, SEU2, SEU9, and SEU15. A similar trend was observed for percentage of light interception at three WAP (47%), six WAP (>64%), and decreased at 10 WAP. In addition, LAI maximum values were between 3.0 and 3.5, allowing 80% of the incident light to be intercepted by maize canopies. The estimated light extinction coefficient (k) remained lower (<0.5), suggesting that maize leaves are eractophilic canopies. Although fractional interception (f) varies, SEU2 and SEU9 had the highest values (0.57), and quantum yields of PSII (>0.73) in dark-adapted leaves. In addition, Pacific-999, SEU2, SEU9, and SEU17 had significantly higher rates of photosynthesis with minimal stomatal conductance and transpiration rates. As a result, they outperformed the control plants in terms of biomass, cob weight and grain yield. This suggests that native maize germplasm could be introduced as novel, less resource-intensive cultivars to sustain global food security.

PMID:37131994 | PMC:PMC10149054 | DOI:10.7717/peerj.15233


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