Combining Ability for Total Phenols and Secondary Traits in a Diverse Set of Colored (Red, Blue, and Purple) Maize
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Maize (Zea mays L.) genetic diversity includes an array of kernel colors (red, blue, and purple), which are minimally used specialty corns when compared to yellow and white types commonly grown. Plant pigments are antioxidant phytochemicals produced as secondary metabolites. Antioxidants have been linked to various anticancer and other anti-inflammatory health benefits. Alternate colors have been the subject of little breeding research, including the potential for high grain yield and high phenolic content from the same hybrid. We evaluated 84 maize hybrids from an 11-parent diallel mating design, many of which were developed in Texas and lacked sufficient characterization. A high narrow-sense heritability of 0.80 as well as very little genotype environment (GE) variation (4%) was observed for total phenolics. Because of low residual error, our trait analysis procedure proved robust in detecting and separating genotypes across diverse environments. Top combiners for phenolics were the purple 'Maiz Morado' with levels nearly twice as high as the red lines, the next highest. Maiz Morado's dark purple phenotype was visually dominant, masking all other colors, but complemented each parent's total phenolics. High per kernel antioxidants (as measured by total phenolics) and not top grain yield may be an option for producing the most total phenolics content. In the current study, the top colored hybrid yielded greater than twice the total phenolics as the top grain yellow hybrid. Crop Science Society of America.