Nematodes cause substantial grain yield loss in susceptible maize (Zea mays L.) cultivars. This study was conducted to estimate general combining ability (GCA), specific combining ability (SCA) and genetic effects associated with nematode resistance in maize. The 30 F 1 hybrids generated from a 6 × 6 diallel and two local checks were evaluated in 2009 at three sites in Uganda. A split plot design was used with nematode treatments serving as whole plots and the hybrids as subplots but arranged in an 8 × 4 spatially adjusted alpha-lattice design. The experiment was replicated three times. Results showed GCA to be important for the reduction of P. zeae and Meloidogyne spp. densities and increase of root mass, with a contribution of 72 to 93% of the phenotypic variance. Inbreds MP709 and CML206 had the highest GCA for Pratylenchus zeae resistance, whereas for grain yield, it was CML444, CML312 and CML395 that were outstanding. The SCA influenced plant height and grain yield under nematode infestation, contributing 43 and 58% of the phenotypic variance, respectively. Observed reciprocal differences due to maternal effects also played a role in influencing the grain yield under nematode infestation. Overdominance genetic effects explained the non-additive variance recorded for the plant height, grain yield, number of root lesions, and P. zeae and Meloidogyne spp. densities under nematode infestation. The parents MP709, CML206, 5057, and CML444 contributed most of the dominant genes for the P. zeae resistance in all their crosses. The parent CML444 contributed most of the dominant genes for improved grain yield in all of its crosses. The high GCA effects among some parents support their utility in breeding of widely adapted nematode-resistant cultivars. The dominant genes and SCA effects would favour pedigree and various sib tests to improve grain yield under nematode pressure.