Key message: We report malt quality QTLs relevant to breeding with greater precision than previous mapping studies. The distribution of favorable alleles suggests strategies for marker-assisted breeding and germplasm exchange.
Abstract: This study leverages the breeding data of 1,862 barley breeding lines evaluated in 97 field trials for genome-wide association study of malting quality traits in barley. The mapping panel consisted of six-row and two-row advanced breeding lines from eight breeding populations established at six public breeding programs across the United States. A total of 4,976 grain samples were subjected to micro-malting analysis and mapping of nine quality traits was conducted with 3,072 SNP markers distributed throughout the genome. Association mapping was performed for individual breeding populations and for combined six-row and two-row populations. Only 16 % of the QTL we report here had been detected in prior bi-parental mapping studies. Comparison of the analyses of the combined two-row and six-row panels identified only two QTL regions that were common to both. In total, 108 and 107 significant marker-trait associations were identified in all six-row and all two-row breeding programs, respectively. A total of 102 and 65 marker-trait associations were specific to individual six-row and two-row breeding programs, respectively indicating that most marker-trait associations were breeding population specific. Combining datasets from different breeding program resulted in both the loss of some QTL that were apparent in the analyses of individual programs and the discovery of new QTL not identified in individual programs. This suggests that simply increasing sample size by pooling samples with different breeding history does not necessarily increase the power to detect associations. The genetic architecture of malting quality and the distribution of favorable alleles suggest strategies for marker-assisted selection and germplasm exchange.