The existence of primitive types of maize cultivars possessing high degrees of prolificacy (4 to 8 ears/plant) in the Northeastern Himalayas of India has generated considerable interest among the maize workers with regard to the origin and evolution of the maize plant. Recently, Sachan and Sarkar (1986), on the basis of extensive studies carried out on such primitive types of maize, have concluded that Sikkim Primitive maize is the same as the pre-Chapalote, pre-Nal-Tel and prehistoric wild corn of Mangelsdorf. In addition to a subject of interest for origin and evolution, Sikkim Primitives have considerable utility as a source of prolificacy, pest resistance, and drought tolerance due to their long history of survival against the vagaries of nature.
During Kharif 1986, fifteen primitive types collected from the Northeastern Himalayan region of the country were grown in a breeding nursery under rainfed, high-fertility conditions at the experimental fields of the Vivekananda Parvatiya Krishi Anusandhan Shala, Almora, situated at 1350 m a.s.l. Visual observations on drought tolerance were recorded on a 1 to 5 scale (1 no wilting, 5 all leaves wilted) on the sixteenth day of a twenty-day drought spell that occurred from 21st August to 10th September. The maize crop in the adjacent fields was severely wilted due to drought. Most of the materials in the breeding nursery also exhibited severe symptoms of moisture stress. However, of the fifteen Sikkim Primitive collections M1 and Murulia, with a score of 1.0, were highly tolerant to drought conditions as compared to S44 and S2, which had a score of 4.0 & 3.0, respectively, and showed severe signs of wilting. In the rest of the collections the tolerance was of intermediate type (1.5 - 2.0). These observations indicate that the Sikkim Primitive maize can be a potential source for drought tolerance in maize breeding programmes. However, the preliminary observations need further confirmation.
V.P. Mani, H.C. Jotshi and K.D. Koranne
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