Theoretical and Applied Genetics

, Volume 132, Issue 8, pp 2273–2284 | Cite as

Haploid male fertility and spontaneous chromosome doubling evaluated in a diallel and recurrent selection experiment in maize

  • Willem S. Molenaar
  • Wolfgang Schipprack
  • Pedro C. Brauner
  • Albrecht E. MelchingerEmail author
Original Article


Key message

Mainly additive gene action governed inheritance of haploid male fertility, although epistatic effects were also significant. Recurrent selection for haploid male fertility resulted in substantial improvement in this trait.


The doubled haploid (DH) technology offers several advantages in maize breeding compared to the traditional method of recurrent selfing. However, there is still great potential for improving the success rate of DH production. Currently, the majority of haploid plants are infertile after chromosome doubling treatment by antimitotic agents such as colchicine and cannot be selfed for production of DH lines. Improvement in haploid male fertility (HMF) by selection for a higher spontaneous chromosome doubling rate (SDR) has the potential to increase DH production efficiency. To investigate the gene action governing SDR in two breeding populations, we adapted the quantitative-genetic model of Eberhart and Gardner (in Biometrics 22:864–881., 1966) for the case of haploid progeny from ten DH lines and corresponding diallel crosses. Furthermore, we carried out three cycles of recurrent selection for SDR in two additional populations to evaluate the selection gain for this trait. Additive genetic effects predominated in both diallel crosses, but epistatic effects were also significant. Entry-mean heritability of SDR observed for haploid progeny of these populations exceeded 0.91, but the single-plant heritability relevant to selection was low, ranging from 0.11 to 0.19. Recurrent selection increased SDR from approximately 5–50%, which suggests the presence of few QTL with large effects. This improvement in HMF is greater than the effect of standard colchicine treatment, which yields at maximum 30% fertile haploids. Altogether, the results show the great potential of spontaneous chromosome doubling to streamline development DH lines and to enable new breeding schemes with more efficient allocation of resources.



Doubled haploid


Spontaneous doubling rate


Haploid male fertility


Pollen score



We are grateful to the technical staff of the maize breeding program at the University of Hohenheim, J. Jesse, F. Mauch, H. Pöschel, and R. Volkhausen for their dedicated work in the greenhouse and field trials. We are also thankful for advice on the statistical analysis from Prof. H. F. Utz and Prof. H.-P. Piepho.

Author contribution statement

AEM, WS and WSM designed the experiments. WS, WSM and AEM coordinated the field trials and phenotyping. WSM carried out the phenotyping with assistance from technical staff. WSM and PCB analyzed the data. WSM and AEM wrote the manuscript. AEM and WS edited the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest

Data availability statement

Data will be made available upon request by the authors.

Ethical standards

The authors declare that the experiments comply with the laws of Germany

Supplementary material

122_2019_3353_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 1056 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Plant Breeding, Seed Science and Population GeneticsUniversity of HohenheimStuttgartGermany

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