Intermediate wheatgrass (Thinopyrum intermedium, IWG) is a perennial grain crop with high biomass and grain yield, long seeds, and resistance to pests and diseases. It also reduces soil erosion, nitrate and mineral leaching into underground water tables, and sequesters carbon in its roots. The domestication timeline of IWG as a grain crop spans only 3 decades, hence it lags annual grain crops in yield and seed characteristics. One approach to improve its agronomic traits is by using molecular markers to uncover marker-trait associations. In this study, we performed association mapping on IWG breeding germplasm from the third recurrent selection cycle at the University of Minnesota. The IWG population was phenotyped in St Paul, MN in 2017 and 2018, and in Crookston, MN in 2018 for grain yield, seed length, width and weight, spike length and weight, and number of spikelets per spike. Strong positive correlations were observed among most trait pairs, with correlations as high as 0.76. Genotyping using high throughput sequencing identified 8,899 high-quality genome-wide SNPs which were combined with phenotypic data in association mapping to discover regions associated with the yield component traits. We detected 154 genetic loci associated with these traits of which 19 were shared between at least two traits. Prediction of breeding values using significant loci as fixed effects in genomic selection model improved predictive abilities by up to 14%. Genetic mapping of agronomic traits followed by using genomic selection to predict breeding values can assist breeders in selecting superior genotypes to accelerate IWG domestication.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank the University of Minnesota Genomics Center, the University of Minnesota Supercomputing Institute, and Anderson Wheat Lab for their technical support during the study. Funding for this project was provided by the Forever Green Initiative at the University of Minnesota through Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
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