Maize (Zea mays L.) is a widely cultivated crop in South Africa and forms the main food crop of thousands of rural communities in the country. In order to improve food and nutrition security for marginalised communities, there is need to develop numerous elite quality protein maize (QPM) varieties. The success of a breeding programme is dependent on the existence of molecular variability among the germplasm. The diversity within 45 QPM inbred lines was evaluated using simple sequence repeat markers. Twenty seven simple sequence repeat primers amplified a total of 112 fragments among the inbred lines. The mean polymorphism information content was 0.48, with an average of 4.32 alleles per locus. Cluster analysis using Rogers (1972) genetic distance partitioned the inbred lines into two major clusters with four and nine sub-clusters each. The minimum genetic distances was 0.13 between CIM12 and CIM13, the average genetic distance was 0.32 and the maximum was 0.46. Cross combinations between QS1 and CIM19 and those between QS22 and CIM18 can potentially give substantial heterosis because of the moderate (0.46) genetic distances that were found between them. Hybrids between these parental lines need to be generated and evaluated in yield trials.
Key words: Quality protein maize, diversity, inbred lines.
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