Identification of Soil Moisture Deficits Influencing Genotype-by-Environment Interactions In Maize (ZEA MAYS L.)
Maize grain yield is often highly influenced by the genotype-by-environment (GxE) interactions which limit plant breeders’ ability to select for superior performance as variation in line performance exists across different environments. While studies have focused on the genetic components underlining GxE interactions, few have investigated the environmental components. The focus of this thesis was to investigate the role that soil moisture stress plays in the formation of GxE patterns using a unique set of hybrid recombinant inbred lines (RIL) that exhibit minimal phenological differences. With the use of environmental groups (EG, environments with similar GxE patterns), the field trials demonstrated that different EGs form when relative soil moisture stress is moderate to high; however, relative low soil moisture stress did not appear to influence the formation of GxE patterns. Seasonal corn heat unit (CHU) accumulation among EGs was the likely cause for EG differentiation among the low moisture stress EGs. It appears that CHUs were the primary cause of different GxE patterns forming when they did not exceed the recommended CHU for a population and when CHU differed greatly from one environment to another. When CHU were not limiting different GxE patterns formed based on the relatively moderate to high soil moisture stress conditions within the growing season.