The dissection of gene-trait associations and its translation into practice through plant breeding is a central aspect of modern plant biology. The identification of genes underlying simply inherited traits has been very successful. However, the identification of gene-trait associations for complex (multi-genic) traits in crop plants with large, often polyploid genomes has been limited by the absence of appropriate genetic resources that allow quantitative trait loci (QTL) and causal genes to be identified and localised. There has also been a tendency for genetic resources to be developed in germplasm not directly relevant to the breeding community limiting effective implementation. In this review, we discuss approaches to mapping genes and the development of Multi-parent Advanced Generation Inter-cross (MAGIC) populations derived from breeder-relevant germplasm as a platform for a new generation of gene-trait analysis in crop species.