The quest to determine the genetic basis of root system architecture (RSA) has been greatly facilitated by recent developments in root phenotyping techniques. Methods that are accurate, high throughput, and control for environmental factors are especially attractive for quantitative trait locus mapping. Here, we describe the adaptation of a nondestructive in vivo gel-based root imaging platform for use in maize (Zea mays). We identify a large number of contrasting RSA traits among 25 founder lines of the maize nested association mapping population and locate 102 quantitative trait loci using the B73 (compact RSA)×Ki3 (exploratory RSA) mapping population. Our results suggest that a phenotypic tradeoff exists between small, compact RSA and large, exploratory RSA.
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