Trends in genetic diversity among European maize cultivars and their parental components during the past 50 years

Jochen C. Reif, Sonia Hamrit, Martin Heckenberger, Wolfgang Schipprack, Hans Peter Maurer, Martin Bohn, Albrecht E. Melchinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It has been claimed that the system that delivers the products of plant breeding reduces the diversity of cultivated varieties leading to an increased genetic vulnerability. The main goal of our study was to monitor the temporal trends in genetic diversity over the past five decades among maize cultivars with the largest acreage in Central Europe. Our objectives were to (1) investigate how much of the genetic diversity present in important adapted open-pollinated varieties (OPVs) has been captured in the elite flint germplasm pool, (2) examine changes in the genetic diversity among the most important commercial hybrids as well as in their dent and flint parents, (3) analyze temporal changes in allele frequencies between the dent and flint parental inbreds, and (4) investigate linkage disequilibrium (LD) trends between pairs of loci within the set of parental dent and flint lines. We examined 30 individuals of five prominent OPVs from Central Europe, 85 maize hybrids of economic importance, and their dent and flint parental components with 55 SSRs. LD was significant at probability level P=0.01 for 20.2% of the SSR marker pairs in the 82 dent lines and for 17.2% in the 66 flint lines. The dent and flint heterotic groups were clearly separated already at the beginning of hybrid breeding in Central Europe. Furthermore, the genetic variation within and among varieties decreased significantly during the five decades. The five OPVs contain numerous unique alleles that were absent in the elite flint pool. Consequently, OPVs could present useful sources for broadening the genetic base of elite maize breeding germplasm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)838-845
Number of pages8
JournalTheoretical and Applied Genetics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2005


  • European maize
  • Genetic diversity
  • Linkage disequilibrium
  • SSRs
  • Temporal trends

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Genetics


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