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  4. Abstract Background

    Maize (Zea Mays) is one of the world’s most important crops. Hybrid maize lines resulted a major improvement in corn production in the previous and current centuries. Understanding the genetic mechanisms of the corn production associated traits greatly facilitate the development of superior hybrid varieties.

    Result

    In this study, four ear traits associated with corn production of Nested Association Mapping (NAM) population were analyzed using a full genetic model, and further, optimal genotype combinations and total genetic effects of current best lines, superior lines, and superior hybrids were predicted for each of the traits at four different locations. The analysis identified 21–34 highly significant SNPs (−log10P > 5), with an estimated total heritability of 37.31–62.34%, while large contributions to variations was due to dominance, dominance-related epistasis, and environmental interaction effects ($${h}_{D+}^2\hat{=}$$hD+2=^14.06% ~ 49.28%), indicating these factors contributed significantly to phenotypic variations of the ear traits. Environment-specific genetic effects were also discovered to be crucial for maize ear traits. There were four SNPs found for three ear traits: two for ear length and weight, and two for ear row number and length. Using the Enumeration method and the stepwise tuning technique, optimum multi-locus genotype combinations for superior lines were identified based on the information obtained from GWAS.

    Conclusions

    Predictions of genetic breeding values showed that different genotype combinations in different geographical regions may be better, and hybrid-line variety breeding with homozygote and heterozygote genotype combinations may have a greater potential to improve ear traits.

     
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