Selecting sugarcane genotypes by the selection index reveals high gain for technological quality traits.
Sugarcane (Saccharum sp) is one of the most promising crops and researchers have sought for renewable alternative energy sources to reduce CO emission. The study of strategies, which allow breeders in the selection of superior genotypes for many traits simultaneously, is important. Therefore, the objectives of this study were: i) to apply path analysis to better understand the relationship between the lignocellulosic traits and technological quality traits with total recoverable sugars (TRS) and ii) to use several multivariate selection indexes to predict the genetic gain and to select superior genotypes in the sugarcane breeding. A total of 40 sugarcane genotypes were evaluated in an experimental design using incomplete blocks with two replicates. The follow traits were evaluated: dry matter (DM), total soluble solids (BRIX), apparent sucrose content in the juice (POL), apparent sucrose content in sugarcane (POLS), fiber content (FIB), purity (PUR), TRS, lignin content (LC), cellulose content (CC), hemicellulose content (HC), and ash content (AC). These traits were analyzed by analysis of variance, phenotypic correlation network, path analysis, and selection index. The highest direct effect on TRS was obtained by POLS (0.337), POL (0.299), BRIX (0.227), and FIB (-0.146). The estimates of phenotypic correlation between these characters and TRS were in the same direction, which demonstrated a cause-and-effect relationship. The highest indirect effect was of POL via POLS (0.331) followed by POLS via POL (0.294). BRIX presented high indirect effects via POLS (0.266) and via POL (0.246). On the other hand, FIB presented negative indirect effects via POLS (-0.169) and POL (-0.103). In conclusion, path analysis and index selection are useful strategies to help breeders in the selection of superior genotypes in sugarcane.