Among cereals, only maize has not only a high amount of carotenoids, tocopherols, and oil content but also is rich in starch and protein content compared with other major food crops, such as rice and wheat. The present investigation was made primarily to assess the genetic variability for nutritionally important traits in 87 elite maize inbreds representing major heterotic groups in China. Carotenoid and tocopherol fractions were measured by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), whereas oil, starch, and protein contents were detected by a VECTER22/N near-infrared analyzer. Significant interactions between genotypes and years were observed for all the traits. The pooled mean values of β-carotene, β-cryptoxanthin, α-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and total carotenoids were 0.449, 0.876, 0.121, 5.803, 3.048, and 10.298 μg g−1, respectively, whereas the combined mean performance of α-tocopherol, γ-tocopherol, δ-tocopherol, and total tocopherols were 23.98, 32.90, 2.189, and 59.55 μg g−1, respectively. The average protein, starch, and oil contents were observed to be 12.28, 64.51, and 3.55%, respectively. High level of heritability estimates were observed for all the traits and ranged from 65.6% (protein content) to 92.5% (α/γ-tocopherol ratio). Most of the traits studied in this experiment were either significantly positive correlated or independent. The present finding exhibits substantial opportunities to the breeders for improvement of these traits in maize cultivars and also suggests further exploration of a new source of elite breeding stocks containing a high level of these nutritionally important compounds. Finally, these findings may also help in biofortification of maize.
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (2008) 56 (15) 6506-6511 [doi: 10.1021/jf7037967]