Natural genetic variation underlying tiller development in Barley (Hordeum vulgare L)

Allison M. Haaning, Kevin P. Smith, Gina L. Brown-Guedira, Shiaoman Chao, Priyanka Tyagi, Gary J. Muehlbauer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In barley (Hordeum vulgare L.), lateral branches called tillers contribute to grain yield and define shoot architecture, but genetic control of tiller number and developmental rate are not well characterized. The primary objectives of this work were to examine relationships between tiller number and other agronomic and morphological traits and identify natural genetic variation associated with tiller number and rate, and related traits. We grew 768 lines from the USDA National Small Grain Collection in the field and collected data over two years for tiller number and rate, and agronomic and morphological traits. Our results confirmed that spike row-type and days to heading are correlated with tiller number, and as much as 28% of tiller number variance was associated with these traits. In addition, negative correlations between tiller number and leaf width and stem diameter were observed, indicating trade-offs between tiller development and other vegetative growth. Thirty-three quantitative trait loci (QTL) were associated with tiller number or rate. Of these, 40% overlapped QTL associated with days to heading and 22% overlapped QTL associated with spike row-type, further supporting that tiller development is associated with these traits. Some QTL associated with tiller number or rate, including the major QTL on chromosome 3H, were not associated with other traits, suggesting that some QTL may be directly related to rate of tiller development or axillary bud number. These results enhance our knowledge of the genetic control of tiller development in barley, which is important for optimizing tiller number and rate for yield improvement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1197-1212
Number of pages16
JournalG3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020


  • GWAS barley tiller
  • Genome-wide association
  • Lateral branch

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