Understanding seed quality and water use characteristics of maize ( Zea mays
L.) landraces will improve food security
among subsistence farmers who still cultivate them. The objective of this study was to evaluate seed quality and water
use characteristics of two maize landraces (GQ1 and GQ2) compared with two commercial hybrids (SC701 and PAN53).
Seed quality was determined by the standard germination, electrical conductivity, and tetrazolium tests. A controlled
environment study was conducted in which the landraces were compared with hybrids across three water treatments (30%
ETc; 50% ETc, and 80% ETc). Although landrace GQ2 performed at par with the hybrids, overall, seed quality tests showed
that hybrids had superior seed quality than landraces. This was also confirmed by highly significant emergence results (P
< 0.001) from pot trials where SC701 and PAN53 had higher emergence (100% and 94.44%, respectively) compared with
GQ2 (86.11%) and GQ1 (61.11%). Subjecting landraces and hybrids to water stress (50% and 30% ETc) resulted in shorter
plants with fewer leaves and earlier tasselling compared with non-stressed plants (80% ETc). Plant height for the 30% ETc
water treatment was 156.1 cm compared with 175.8 cm for the 80% ETc water treatment, while plants under the 30% ETc
water treatment tasseled at 105.4 d compared with 129.5 d for the 80% ETc water treatment. The GQ2 landrace continued
to perform similar to, and often better, than the hybrid varieties, especially under stress conditions. Yield was poor under
controlled conditions. Performance of the GQ2 landrace for both seed quality tests and under controlled conditions shows
that landraces remain an important germplasm resource.