Recent technical advancements and refinement of analytical methods have enabled the loci (quantitative trait loci, QTLs) responsible for the genetic control of quantitative traits to be dissected molecularly. To date, most plant QTLs have been cloned using a positional cloning approach following identification in experimental crosses. In some cases, an association between sequence variation at a candidate gene and a phenotype has been established by analysing existing genetic accessions. These strategies can be refined using appropriate genetic materials and the latest developments in genomics platforms. We foresee that although QTL analysis and cloning addressing naturally occurring genetic variation should shed light on mechanisms of plant adaptation, a greater emphasis on approaches relying on mutagenesis and candidate gene validation is likely to accelerate the pace of discovering the genes underlying QTLs.