Understanding Heterosis, Genetic Effects, and Genome Wide Associations for Forage Quantity and Quality Traits in Multi-Cut Pearl Millet
Pearl millet is an important food and fodder crop cultivated in the arid and semi-arid regions of Africa and Asia, and is now expanding to other regions for forage purpose. This study was conducted to better understand the forage quantity and quality traits to enhance the feed value of this crop. Two sets of pearl millet hybrids (80 single cross hybrids in Set-I and 50 top cross hybrids in Set-II) along with their parents evaluated multi-locationally for the forage-linked traits under multi-cut (two cuts) system revealed significant variability for the forage traits in the hybrids and parents. The mean better parent heterosis (BPH) for total dry forage yield (TDFY) was 136% across all the single cross hybrids and 57% across all the top cross hybrids. The mean BPH for in vitro organic matter digestibility (IVOMD) varied from −11 to 7% in the single cross hybrids and −13 to 11% in the top cross hybrids across cuts. The findings of TDFY and IVOMD heterosis in these sets indicated the potential of improvement of the hybrid cultivars for forage quantity and quality in forage pearl millet. The parental lines single cross parent (SCP)-L02, SCP-L06, and top cross parent (TCP)-T08 found superior in the forage quantity and quality traits can be utilized in the future breeding programs. Most of the forage traits were found to be controlled by using the non-additive gene action. A diverse panel of 105 forage-type hybrid parents (Set-III) genotyped following genotyping by sequencing (GBS) and phenotyped for crude protein (CP) and IVOMD under multi-cuts for 2 years identified one stable significant single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) on LG4 for CP, and nine SNPs for IVOMD distributed across all the linkage groups except on LG2. The identified loci, once validated, then could be used for the forage quality traits improvement in pearl millet through marker-assisted selection.