Flowering time is a key agronomic trait that plays an important role in crop yield. There is growing interest in dissecting the developmental subphases of flowering to better understand and fine-tune plant development and maximize yield. To do this, we used the wild barley nested association mapping (NAM) population HEB-25, comprising 1420 BC1S3 lines, to map quantitative trait loci (QTLs) controlling five developmental traits, plant height, and thousand grain weight. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) enabled us to locate a total of 89 QTLs that genetically regulate the seven investigated traits. Several exotic QTL alleles proved to be highly effective and potentially useful in barley breeding. For instance, thousand grain weight was increased by 4.5 g and flowering time was reduced by 9.3 days by substituting Barke elite QTL alleles for exotic QTL alleles at the denso/sdw1 and the Ppd-H1 loci, respectively. We showed that the exotic allele at the semi-dwarf locus denso/sdw1 can be used to increase grain weight since it uncouples the negative correlation between shoot elongation and the ripening phase. Our study demonstrates that nested association mapping of HEB-25 can help unravel the genetic regulation of plant development and yield formation in barley. Moreover, since we detected numerous useful exotic QTL alleles in HEB-25, we conclude that the introgression of these wild barley alleles into the elite barley gene pool may enable developmental phases to be specifically fine-tuned in order to maximize thousand grain weight and, potentially, yield in the long term.
Keywords: Barley; flowering time; genome-wide association study (GWAS); nested association mapping (NAM); plant development; quantitative trait locus (QTL); thousand grain weight; wild barley..
© The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Experimental Biology.