We analyzed genetic structure and diversity among eight populations of popcorn, using SSR loci as genetic markers. Our objectives were to select SSR loci that could be used to estimate genetic diversity within popcorn populations, and to analyze the genetic structure of promising populations with high levels of heterozygosity that could be used in breeding programs. Fifty-seven alleles (3.7 alleles per locus) were detected; the highest effective number of alleles (4.21) and the highest gene diversity (0.763) were found for the Umc2226 locus.
Diallel analysis was used to obtain information on combining ability, heterosis, estimates of genetic distances by random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) and on their correlations with heterosis, for the popcorn varieties RS 20, UNB2, CMS 43, CMS 42, Zélia, UEM J1, UEM M2, Beija-Flor, and Viçosa, which were crossed to obtain all possible combinations, without reciprocals. The genitors and the 36 F1 hybrids were evaluated in field trials in Maringá during two growing seasons in a randomized complete block design with three replications.
Cytological analysis of microsporogenesis in 72 popcorn plants, comprising nine from the original population (CMS-43, S0) and 63 from seven cycles of self-fertilization (S1 to S7), one plant of S0 generation (plant 2) was identified with B chromosomes. The number of B chromosomes varied from two to three in the same anther. The pattern of chromosome pairing and meiotic behavior of Bs were similar to those found in other plant species. The presence of B chromosomes did not affect chiasma frequency and chiasma distribution in A chromosomes.
Endogamy places genes for several characteristics in homozygosis, which include those related to meiosis causing abnormalities that may impair gamete viability. An original population (S0) of popcorn (CMS-43) produced by Embrapa Maize and Sorghum was self-pollinated for seven years, generating inbred lines (S1 to S7). Conventional studies of microsporogenesis revealed that meiotic abnormalities did not increase with endogamy.