Genetic trends for yield and key agronomic traits in pre-commercial and commercial maize varieties between 2008 and 2020 in Uganda
Estimating genetic gains is vital to optimize breeding programs for increased efficiency. Genetic gains should translate into productivity gains if returns to investments in breeding and impact are to be realized. The objective of this study was to estimate genetic gain for grain yield and key agronomic traits in pre-commercial and commercial maize varieties from public and private breeding programs tested in (i) national performance trials (NPT), (ii) era trial and, (iii) compare the trends with the national average. The study used (i) historical NPT data on 419 improved maize varieties evaluated in 23 trials at 6-8 locations each between 2008 and 2020, and (ii) data from an era trial of 54 maize hybrids released between 1999 and 2020. The NPT data was first analyzed using a mixed model and resulting estimate for each entry was regressed onto its first year of testing. Analysis was done over all entries, only entries from National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), or private seed companies. Estimated genetic gain was 2.25% or 81 kg ha-1 year-1 from the NPT analysis. A comparison of genetic trends by source indicated that CIMMYT entries had a gain of 1.98% year-1 or 106 kg ha-1 year-1. In contrast, NARO and private sector maize entries recorded genetic gains of 1.30% year-1 (59 kg ha-1 year-1) and 1.71% year-1 (79 kg ha-1 year-1), respectively. Varieties from NARO and private sector showed comparable mean yields of 4.56 t ha-1 and 4.62 t ha-1, respectively, while hybrids from CIMMYT had a mean of 5.37 t ha-1. Era analysis indicated significant genetic gain of 1.69% year-1 or 55 kg ha-1 year-1, while a significant national productivity gain of 1.48% year-1 (37 kg ha-1 year-1) was obtained. The study, thus, demonstrated the importance of public-private partnerships in development and delivery of new genetics to farmers in Uganda.