, Volume 189, Issue 1, pp 123–133 | Cite as

Genotypic variation and relationships between seedling and adult plant traits in maize (Zea mays L.) inbred lines grown under contrasting nitrogen levels

  • Adel H. Abdel-Ghani
  • Bharath KumarEmail author
  • Jenaro Reyes-Matamoros
  • Pedro J. Gonzalez-Portilla
  • Constantin Jansen
  • Juan Pablo San Martin
  • Michael Lee
  • Thomas Lübberstedt


Genotypes with better root development have good nutrient acquisition capacity and may yield better under limited nitrogen (N) conditions and consequently can help reduce the N fertilization rate and hence mitigate some economic and ecological problems. This study focused on the genotypic variation among diverse maize inbred lines for seedling and adult plant traits under contrasting N levels. Seventy-four lines were screened under high and low N levels in a climate chamber and in the field. High phenotypic diversity was observed for seedling and adult plant traits together with moderate to high broad-sense heritability estimates. Seedling total root length and root dry weight were significantly correlated with other root traits in maize. Of the adult plant traits evaluated in the field, the anthesis-silking interval and the leaf chlorophyll contents were significantly correlated with grain yield under both low and high N levels. In one location, the seminal root length was correlated with grain yield both under low and high N levels and the root dry weight was correlated with grain yield under high N. Selection indices based on secondary root traits along with grain yield could lead to an increase in selection efficiency for grain yield under N stress condition. By identifying lines with better root development, particularly lines with longer SRL, it may be possible to select inbred lines with higher grain yield particularly under low N condition.


Nitrogen Maize Root traits Grain yield Genetic variation 



Dr. Adel Abdel-Ghani was a visiting Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellow and during the sabbatical leave granted from Mu'tah University, Jordan during the academic year 2011–2012 at Iowa State University (ISU), Ames, USA. Dr. Jenaro Reyes-Matamoros contributed in this study while he was on a sabbatical leave at ISU. Authors are very thankful to Guan Yi and Leigh Lihs for their technical assistance. Authors would also like to thank USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (project number: IOW05180) and RF Baker Center for Plant Breeding for funding this work. The authors also thank Ryan Pape, Jeff Schussler and Mark Cooper from Pioneer Hi-Bred International for their assistance in carrying this study.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 75 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adel H. Abdel-Ghani
    • 1
  • Bharath Kumar
    • 2
    Email author
  • Jenaro Reyes-Matamoros
    • 3
  • Pedro J. Gonzalez-Portilla
    • 2
  • Constantin Jansen
    • 2
  • Juan Pablo San Martin
    • 4
  • Michael Lee
    • 2
  • Thomas Lübberstedt
    • 2
  1. 1.Faculty of AgricultureMu’tah UniversityKarakJordan
  2. 2.Department of AgronomyIowa State UniversityAmesUSA
  3. 3.Science InstituteAutonomous University of Puebla (BUAP)PueblaMexico
  4. 4.Pioneer Hi-Bred International, IncJohnstonUSA

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