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Improvements in maize (Zea mays L.) yields have been due to improvements in production inputs as well as to cultivars that have improved performance at low levels of inputs and the ability to respond to high levels of inputs used on today's farms. The objectives of this study were to estimate genetic rates of gain and inbreeding depression by evaluating populations representative of each of seven eras of maize breeding. Inbred lines representative of each of the six decades (eras) from 1930 to 1980 were intermated to produce six era populations. A seventh, pre-1930 era, was represented by the open-pollinated cultivars (OP) ‘Reids Yellow Dent’ and ‘Lancaster Sure Crop’. These eight entries along with three check populations were evaluated in six Iowa environments. In addition, to assess changes in the rates of inbreeding depression, S1 bulk populations of the six era populations and OP and S2 bulks of the three check populations were also evaluated. The average genetic rate of gain for grain yield was 0.52 ± 0.04 Mg ha-1 era-1 when OP was included in the analysis. By assuming 10 yr per era, the yearly genetic rate of gain was 0.052 ± 0.004 Mg ha-1. The rates of genetic gain for percentage of stalk lodging and grain moisture at harvest were −5.1 ± 0.5% era-1 and 0.44 ± 0.09% era-1, respectively. The rate of inbreeding depression for yield increased steadily over eras, and the rate of inbreeding depression for Era 6 was double that for the OP. However, inbreeding depression as a percentage of the So mean showed no directional changes and was similar for all eras. These results indicate that breeders have been effective at selecting lines and hybrids with higher yields and resistance to lodging and the ability to produce higher yields under stress conditions. The increased rates of inbreeding depression for the more recent eras coupled with the increased performance of the S0 and S1 populations suggest that favorable allele frequencies were initially below 0.5 and have been increasing and]or that the more recent era populations are segregating at more loci.
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Lamkey, Kendall R. and Smith, O. S., "Performance and Inbreeding Depression of Populations Representing Seven Eras of Maize Breeding" (1987). Agronomy Publications. 254.