Stomatal conductance is central for the trades-off between hydraulics and photosynthesis. We aimed at deciphering its genetic control and that of its responses to evaporative demand and water deficit, a nearly impossible task with gas exchanges measurements. Whole-plant stomatal conductance was estimated via inversion of the Penman-Monteith equation from data of transpiration and plant architecture collected in a phenotyping platform. We have analysed jointly 4 experiments with contrasting environmental conditions imposed to a panel of 254 maize hybrids. Estimated whole-plant stomatal conductance closely correlated with gas-exchange measurements and biomass accumulation rate. Sixteen robust quantitative trait loci (QTLs) were identified by genome wide association studies and co-located with QTLs of transpiration and biomass. Light, vapour pressure deficit, or soil water potential largely accounted for the differences in allelic effects between experiments, thereby providing strong hypotheses for mechanisms of stomatal control and a way to select relevant candidate genes among the 1-19 genes harboured by QTLs. The combination of allelic effects, as affected by environmental conditions, accounted for the variability of stomatal conductance across a range of hybrids and environmental conditions. This approach may therefore contribute to genetic analysis and prediction of stomatal control in diverse environments.
Keywords: GWAS; QTL by environment interaction; drought; evaporative demand; maize (Zea mays L.); phenomics; stomatal conductance; transpiration.
© 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.