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This article in CM

  1. Vol. 2 No. 1
     
    Published: Aug, 2003


    * Corresponding author(s): westgate@iastate.edu
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doi:10.1094/CM-2003-0804-01-RS

Tassel Morphology as an Indicator of Potential Pollen Production in Maize

  1. Agustin E. Fonseca,
  2. Mark E. Westgate *a,
  3. Lahcen Grass and
  4. David L. Dornbosb
  1. a Department of Agronomy, Iowa State University, 1563 Agronomy Hall, Ames 50011
    b Syngenta Seeds Inc., Washington, IA 52353

Abstract

Adequate pollen production is an essential prerequisite for achieving high yields in commercial corn (Zea mays L.) production and for insuring high levels of genetic purity in the production of hybrid seed. Documenting the timing and intensity of pollen shed are fundamental to these goals, but methods to describe patterns of pollen release from maize tassels are limited and laborious. Our objective was to explore characteristics of tassel morphology that could be used as simple and indirect measures of pollen production per plant under field conditions. The progress of tassel development was documented using a nine-stage scale based on easily-quantified morphological characteristics. Genetic variation among hybrids and inbreds as well as environmental variation across planting densities and years was correlated with levels of pollen production. This analysis revealed that a change in tassel dry weight during pollen shed was not an accurate measure of pollen production per tassel. Likewise, no single morphological characterization captured all the genetic and environmental variation in pollen production per tassel. But a combination of morphological traits incorporated into a Tassel Area Index (TAI) accounted for up to 89% of the variation in pollen production among hybrids in response to population density, and 64% of the variation in pollen production among inbred heterotic groups. Because data collection is simple, quick, and non-destructive, the Tassel Area Index approach is well-suited for distinguishing genetic variation in pollen production and relative responses to treatments under field conditions. The accuracy of the technique could be increased, if necessary, by incorporating additional information about flower density or pollen production per anther. But this would entail a much greater investment of time and resources.

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