Genome-wide association study for agronomic and physiological traits in spring wheat evaluated in a range of heat prone environments
We undertook large-scale genetic analysis to determine marker-trait associations (MTAs) underlying agronomic and physiological performance in spring wheat using genome-wide association studies (GWAS). Field trials were conducted at seven sites in three countries (Sudan, Egypt, and Syria) over 2–3 years in each country. Twenty-five agronomic and physiological traits were measured on 188 wheat genotypes. After correcting for population structure and relatedness, a total of 245 MTAs distributed over 66 loci were associated with agronomic traits in individual and mean performance across environments respectively; some of which confirmed previously reported loci. Of these, 27 loci were significantly associated with days to heading, thousand kernel weight, grain yield, spike length, and leaf rolling for mean performance across environments. Despite strong QTL by environment interactions, eight of the loci on chromosomes 1A, 1D, 5A, 5D, 6B, 7A, and 7B had pleiotropic effects on days to heading and yield components (TKW, SM−2, and SNS). The winter-type alleles at the homoeologous VRN1 loci significantly increased days to heading and grain yield in optimal environments, but decreased grain yield in heat prone environments. Top 20 high-yielding genotypes, ranked by additive main effects and multiplicative interaction (AMMI), had low kinship relationship and possessed 4–5 favorable alleles for GY MTAs except two genotypes, Shadi-4 and Qafzah-11/Bashiq-1–2. This indicated different yield stability mechanisms due to potentially favorable rare alleles that are uncharacterized. Our results will enable wheat breeders to effectively introgress several desirable alleles into locally adapted germplasm in developing wheat varieties with high yield stability and enhanced heat tolerance.