Maize occupies an important position in the world economy, and serves as an important source of food and feed. Together with rice and wheat, it provides at least 30 percent of the food calories to more than 4.5 billion people in 94 developing countries. Maize production is constrained by a wide range of biotic and abiotic stresses that keep afflicting maize production and productivity causing serious yield losses which bring yield levels below the potential levels. New innovations and trends in the areas of genomics, bioinformatics, and phenomics are enabling breeders with innovative tools, resources and technologies to breed superior resilient cultivars having the ability to resist the vagaries of climate and insect pest attacks. Maize has high nutritional value but is deficient in two amino acids viz. Lysine and Tryptophan. The various micronutrients present in maize are not sufficient to meet the nutritive demands of consumers, however the development of maize hybrids and composites with modifying nutritive value have proven to be good to meet the demands of consumers. Quality protein maize (QPM) developed by breeders have higher concentrations of lysine and tryptophan as compared to normal maize. Genetic level improvement has resulted in significant genetic gain, leading to increase in maize yield mainly on farmer’s fields. Molecular tools when collaborated with conventional and traditional methodologies help in accelerating these improvement programs and are expected to enhance genetic gains and impact on marginal farmer’s field. Genomic tools enable genetic dissections of complex QTL traits and promote an understanding of the physiological basis of key agronomic and stress adaptive and resistance traits. Marker-aided selection and genome-wide selection schemes are being implemented to accelerate genetic gain relating to yield, resilience, and nutritional quality. Efforts are being done worldwide by plant breeders to develop hybrids and composites of maize with high nutritive value to feed the people in future.
Part of the book: Cereal Grains