Increasing grain yield is still the main target of wheat breeding; yet today's wheat plants utilize less than half of their yield potential. Owing to the difficulty of determining grain yield potential in a large population, few genetic factors regulating floret fertility (i.e. the difference between grain yield potential and grain number) have been reported to date. In this study, we conducted a genome-wide association study (GWAS) by quantifying 54 traits (16 floret fertility traits and 38 traits for assimilate partitioning and spike morphology) in 210 European winter wheat accessions. The results of this GWAS experiment suggested potential associations between floret fertility, assimilate partitioning and spike morphology revealed by shared quantitative trait loci (QTLs). Several candidate genes involved in carbohydrate metabolism, phytohormones or floral development colocalized with such QTLs, thereby providing potential targets for selection. Based on our GWAS results we propose a genetic network underlying floret fertility and related traits, nominating determinants for improved yield performance.
School of Life Sciences, Nanjing University
Nanjing 210023, China