Genomic-regions associated with cold stress tolerance in Asia-adapted tropical maize germplasm
Maize is gaining impetus in non-traditional and non-conventional seasons such as off-season, primarily due to higher demand and economic returns. Maize varieties directed for growing in the winter season of South Asia must have cold resilience as an important trait due to the low prevailing temperatures and frequent cold snaps observed during this season in most parts of the lowland tropics of Asia. The current study involved screening of a panel of advanced tropically adapted maize lines to cold stress during vegetative and flowering stage under field conditions. A suite of significant genomic loci (28) associated with grain yield along and agronomic traits such as flowering (15) and plant height (6) under cold stress environments. The haplotype regression revealed 6 significant haplotype blocks for grain yield under cold stress across the test environments. Haplotype blocks particularly on chromosomes 5 (bin5.07), 6 (bin6.02), and 9 (9.03) co-located to regions/bins that have been identified to contain candidate genes involved in membrane transport system that would provide essential tolerance to the plant. The regions on chromosome 1 (bin1.04), 2 (bin 2.07), 3 (bin 3.05–3.06), 5 (bin5.03), 8 (bin8.05–8.06) also harboured significant SNPs for the other agronomic traits. In addition, the study also looked at the plausibility of identifying tropically adapted maize lines from the working germplasm with cold resilience across growth stages and identified four lines that could be used as breeding starts in the tropical maize breeding pipelines.