Mining Natural Variation for Maize Improvement: Selection on Phenotypes and Genes



Maize is highly genetically and phenotypically diverse. Tropical maize and teosinte are important genetic resources that harbor unique alleles not found in temperate maize hybrids. To access these resources, breeders must be able to extract favorable unique alleles from tropical maize and teosinte from their population genomic context, where they are linked with many undesired alleles that confer adaptation to tropical environments, ancient farming methods, or wild growth habit (in the case of teosinte). Long-term traditional breeding efforts have demonstrated the value of diverse germplasm to improve maize productivity, while also enhancing the genetic base of cultivated varieties. Genomics provides new opportunities to identify the genes affecting important agronomic traits and to estimate the wide range of allelic effects at such genes. New approaches to complex trait analysis, including joint multiple population analysis, genome-wide association analysis, and genomic selection, can leverage high throughput sequencing and genotyping technologies to improve our understanding of the genome-wide distribution of allele effects across the wide genetic variation in the primary gene pool of maize. Implementing this information for practical maize improvement remains a challenge.


Maize Teosinte Allelic effect Genome sequencing Genome-wide association analysis Linkage drag Genomic selection SNP Candidate gene Haplotype Adaptation Productivity Zea mays 



Research by SS, SF-G, and JBH is supported by US National Science Foundation (DBI-0321467 and IOS-0820619). We thank Drs. Jesús Sánchez-Gonzalez (University of Guadalajara) and Major M. Goodman (North Carolina State University) for the ears and photographs used in Fig. 25.1.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Crop ScienceNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  2. 2.USDA-ARS Plant Genetics Research UnitColumbiaUSA
  3. 3.Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maiz y Trigo (CIMMYT)TexcocoMéxico
  4. 4.USDA-ARS Plant Science Research UnitRaleighUSA
  5. 5.Division of Plant SciencesUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA

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