Maize (Zea mays L.) is an important staple food crop in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The productivity of the crop is limited partly by the leaf blight disease caused by Exserohilum turcicum. In breeding for resistance to leaf blight, the germplasm needs to be well-characterized in order to design efficient breeding programs. This study evaluated the (i) genetic variability among maize inbred lines and (ii) diversity of selected medium to late maturity tropical maize inbred lines for hybrid breeding. Plants of 50 maize inbred lines were artificially inoculated in the field during 2011 and 2012. Disease severity and incidence as well as grain yield were measured. A subset of 20 elite maize inbred lines was genotyped using 20 SSR markers. The germplasm showed significant differences in reaction to leaf blight and were classified as either resistant or intermediate or susceptible. Mean disease severity varied from 2.04 to 3.25. Seven inbred lines were identified as potential sources of resistance to leaf blight for the genetic improvement of maize. The genotyping detected 108 alleles and grouped the inbred lines into five clusters consistent with their pedigrees. The genetic grouping in the source population will be useful in the exploitation of tropical maize breeding programs.
Part of the book: Maize Germplasm