Breeding maize as biogas substrate in Central Europe: I. Quantitative-genetic parameters for testcross performance

Theor Appl Genet. 2012 Apr;124(6):971-80. doi: 10.1007/s00122-011-1761-y. Epub 2011 Dec 13.


Biofuels have gained importance recently and the use of maize biomass as substrate in biogas plants for production of methane has increased tremendously in Germany. The objectives of our research were to (1) estimate variance components and heritability for different traits relevant to biogas production in testcrosses (TCs) of maize, (2) study correlations among traits, and (3) discuss strategies to breed maize as a substrate for biogas fermenters. We evaluated 570 TCs of 285 diverse dent maize lines crossed with two flint single-cross testers in six environments. Data were recorded on agronomic and quality traits, including dry matter yield (DMY), methane fermentation yield (MFY), and methane yield (MY), the product of DMY and MFY, as the main target trait. Estimates of variance components showed general combining ability (GCA) to be the major source of variation. Estimates of heritability exceeded 0.67 for all traits and were even much greater in most instances. Methane yield was perfectly correlated with DMY but not with MFY, indicating that variation in MY is primarily determined by DMY. Further, DMY had a larger heritability and coefficient of genetic variation than MFY. Hence, for improving MY, selection should primarily focus on DMY rather than MFY. Further, maize breeding for biogas production may diverge from that for forage production because in the former case, quality traits seem to be of much lower importance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biofuels*
  • Biomass
  • Breeding / methods*
  • Crosses, Genetic*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genotype
  • Methane / biosynthesis
  • Phenotype
  • Zea mays / genetics*


  • Biofuels
  • Methane