Organic farming has gained in importance in Germany during recent years. Therefore an increasing demand exists for varieties with specific adaptation to this farming system. In the present study we therefore conducted comparative field experiments with modern maize breeding materials under organic versus conventional farming conditions (ORG and CON, respectively) to estimate quantitative genetic parameters needed for developing optimal breeding strategies and to investigate the perspectives of selection for specific adaptation to ORG. Starting from two broad samples of elite germplasm, consisting of 178 flint and dent lines, respectively, fractions of 11 flint and 11 dent lines were selected based on their testcross performance under ORG. A corresponding set of lines was selected under CON. Testcross performance was evaluated in three regions of Germany and selection of superior lines was practiced across two stages in 2004 and 2005, respectively. The specifically selected lines were crossed in a factorial manner for production of experimental inter-pool single-cross hybrids which were field-tested under ORG and CON in two regions in 2006. Average grain yields were about 16% lower under ORG than under CON. Variance components and entry-mean heritability coefficients under ORG largely resembled those obtained under CON. Phenotypic correlations between ORG and CON were moderate for grain yield and strong for grain dry matter content. No consistent estimates were obtained for the corresponding genotypic correlation for grain yield. At the first stage of testcross selection no evidence of specific adaptation to ORG or CON was observed whereas the factorial crosses tested in 2006 displayed distinct, yet non-significant, advantages when evaluated under the respective target farming system. A small top fraction of hybrids showed outstanding performance under both ORG and CON. The chances of detecting such broadly adapted genotypes are increased if ORG test sites are included in the regular testing system.
Organic farmingQuantitative genetic parametersSelection responseSpecific adaptationZea mays L.