Eight-parental diallel cross and SSR molecular markers were used to determine the combining ability of common wheat lines grown under well-watered (WW) and water-stress (WS) conditions. Analysis of variance of yield indicated highly significant differences among the progenies. General combining ability (GCA) determined most of the differences among the crosses. Specific combing ability (SCA) was also significant but less important. The estimates of GCA effects indicated that one line was the best general combiner for grain yield under drought. Nei's genetic distance, measured using SSR markers, differed from 0.20 to 0.48 among the eight genotypes. The correlation of Nei's genetic distance with SCA for grain yield and heterosis ranged from 0.4 to 0.5. These results indicate that the level of SCA and heterosis depends on the level of genetic diversity between the wheat genotypes examined. Microsatellite markers were effective in predicting the mean and the variance of SCA in various cultivars combinations. However, selection of crosses solely on microsatellite data would miss superior combinations.
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