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Acta Agronomica Sinica ›› 2024, Vol. 50 ›› Issue (3): 771-778.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1006.2024.33026

• RESEARCH NOTES • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Is cob color variation in maize accidental or incidental to any agronomic traits? —An example of nationally approved common hybrids over the years

LIANG Xing-Wei1(), YANG Wen-Ting1, JIN Yu1, HU Li1, FU Xiao-Xiang1, CHEN Xian-Min2, ZHOU Shun-Li2,*(), SHEN Si2,*(), LIANG Xiao-Gui1,2,*()   

  1. 1School of Agricultural Sciences, Jiangxi Agricultural University / Key Laboratory of Crop Physiology, Ecology and Genetic Breeding, Ministry of Education / Laboratory for Phytochemistry and Plant-derived Pesticides of Jiangxi Province, Nanchang 330045, Jiangxi, China
    2College of Agronomy and Biotechnology, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100193, China
  • Received:2023-04-27 Accepted:2023-10-23 Online:2024-03-12 Published:2023-11-14
  • Contact: *E-mail: zhoushl@cau.edu.cn; E-mail: shensi@cau.edu.cn; E-mail: liangxg@jxau.edu.cn
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(32160445);China Agriculture Research System of MOF and MARA(CARS-02-13);China Postdoctoral Science Foundation(2022M723432)


Maize cob color has undergone powerful artificial selection in temperate germplasm and commercial hybrids. To clarify the selection bias of cob color in maize in different regions, and to explore the association of cob color with various agronomic traits, we used the public data of nationally approved maize hybrids from 1992 to 2020 to analyze the released regions and multiple agronomic traits of hybrids with different cob colors (red or white). Among the 1604 hybrids counted, the proportion of red cob hybrids has gradually increased from 50% in 1992 to more than 80% in 2020. The proportion of red cobs in the Northern spring maize region, Huanghuaihai summer maize region, and Northwestern maize region increased faster than that in the Southwestern and Southern maize regions. The average ear length and kernel row number of the red cob hybrids and white axis varieties were significantly higher than those of the whites in the recent 15-20 years. The average crude starch content of the reds increased significantly over the years, while the average crude fat content decreased significantly. The average crude protein and lysine content of the reds were weaker than that of the white axis varieties. Therefore, we speculate that the strong artificial selection for red cob may be mainly related to the pursuit of maize yield potential per plant. However, the performance of red cob hybrids in abiotic stress and grain protein quality deserves further exploration.

Key words: maize, cob color, artificial selection, nationally approved hybrids, regional distribution, agronomic traits

Fig. 1

Trends of cob color ratio of nationally approved common maize hybrids over the years White: white cob color; Red: red cob color. The shadow in the figure shows the number of nationally approved common maize varieties at different periods. *, **, and *** indicate significant difference at the 0.05, 0.01, and 0.001, probability levels, respectively."

Fig. 2

Cob color variation characteristics of nationally approved common maize hybrids in different regions over the years N: the Northern maize region; HHH: the Huanghuaihai maize region; NW: the Northwestern maize region; SW: the Southwestern maize region; S: the Southern maize region; _W: white cob color; _R: red cob color. The numbers in the columns are the statistics of the nationally approved common maize hybrids in different regions in different periods."

Fig. 3

Variations in plant architecture proportion of nationally approved common maize hybrids with different cob colors over the years W: white cob color; R: red cob color."

Fig. 4

Comparison of agronomic traits of nationally approved common maize hybrids with different cob colors over the years * and *** indicate significant different at the 0.05 and 0.001 probability levels, respectively."

Fig. 5

Comparison of ear/grain morphology of nationally approved common maize hybrids with different cob colors over the years *, **, and *** indicate significant difference at the 0.05, 0.01, and 0.001 probability levels, respectively."

Fig. 6

Comparison of grain quality of nationally approved common maize hybrids with different cob colors over the years White: white cob color; Red: red cob color; White_average: average white cob color; Red_average: the average red cob color. The red and black triangles in the figure represent the mean values of the red and white cob respectively. * and *** indicate significant difference at the 0.05 and 0.001 probability levels, respectively."

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