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Theor Appl Genet. 2006 Sep;113(5):953-64. Epub 2006 Jul 29.

Assessing the importance of genotype x environment interaction for root traits in rice using a mapping population II: conventional QTL analysis.

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School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, AB24 3UU, UK.


Modifying plant root systems is considered a means of crop improvement targeted to low-resource environments, particularly low nutrient and drought-prone agriculture. The identification of quantitative trait loci (QTLs) for root traits has stimulated marker-assisted breeding to this end, but different QTLs have been detected in different populations of the same species, and importantly, in the same population when grown in different experimental environments. The presence of QTL x environment interaction is implicated, and this must be characterised if the utility of the target QTLs is to be realised. Previous attempts to do this suffer from a lack of control over replicate environments and inadequate statistical rigour. The Bala x Azucena mapping population was grown in two replicate experiments of four treatment environments, a control, a low light, a low soil nitrogen and a low soil water treatment. After a 4 weeks growth, maximum root length, maximum root thickness, root mass below 50 cm, total plant dry mass, % root mass and shoot length were measured. A summary of the overall results is presented in an accompanying paper. Here, QTL analysis by composite interval mapping is presented. A total of 145 QTLs were detected, mapping to 37 discrete loci on all chromosomes. Superficial evidence of QTL x E (great difference in LOD score) was tested by single-marker analysis which confirmed QTL x E for five loci representing only five individual trait-loci interactions. Some loci appeared to be stable across environments. Some QTLs were clearly more or less active under low light, low nitrogen or drought. A few notable loci on chromosomes 1, 2, 3, 5, 7 and 9 are briefly discussed. Also discussed are some remaining statistical shortcomings that will be addressed in another companion paper.

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