Drought is increasingly becoming a common natural phenomenon that adversely affects maize productivity in Lesotho necessitating mitigation strategies. Irrigation may be a viable option but water is becoming scarce, hence choice of drought tolerant cultivars maybe the best alternative. The study was conducted in Lesotho with the aim of (1) verifying the differences among maize cultivars in response to induced water deficit stress, (2) evaluating maize cultivars against different concentration levels of Polyethylene glycol which induces drought stress in germinating seed and seedling growth and (3) identifying cultivars of maize tolerant to drought stress. Complete Randomized Design with three replications and 22 treatments were employed in the laboratory experiment. Twenty-two different accessions of maize were collected from Department of Agricultural Research in Maseru, Lesotho, were evaluated for their genetic potential to drought tolerance at seedling stage. Water stress was induced by non-ionic water soluble polymer polyethylene glycol (PEG) of molecular weight 6000 using the procedure which was described by Michel and Kaufiman (1973). After ten days, data were collected on plumule length, radicle length, coleoptile length, radicle fresh weight, plumule fresh weight, coleoptile fresh weight, radicle dry weight, plumule dry weight and coleoptile dry weight. Analysis of variance was performed using Genstat recovery Version 14 to establish the difference among treatments. The results showed significant differences (P<0.05 and P<0.01) among the accessions, PEG-6000 concentrations and their interactions for evaluated seedling traits suggesting a great amount of variability for drought tolerance in maize cultivars. It was further revealed that as concentration of PEG is increased, values of the parameters measured decreased. The maize cultivars which outperformed the others in terms of drought tolerance were CAP 9019, SNK 2778, DKC 78-27, PAN3MO1 and Natal.
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