Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

A QTL on chromosome 6A in bread wheat (Triticum aestivum) is associated with longer coleoptiles, greater seedling vigour and final plant height


Wheat crops with greater early vigour shade the soil surface more rapidly and reduce water loss. Evaporative losses affect water-use efficiency particularly in drier regions where most of the rainfall occurs early in the growing season before canopy closure. Greater seedling leaf area and longer coleoptiles are major determinants of increased vigour and better crop establishment. A previously developed high vigour breeding line ‘Vigour 18’ was used to establish a large recombinant inbred family and framework map to identify a QTL on chromosome 6A that accounted for up to 8% of the variation for coleoptile length, 14% of seedling leaf width and was associated with increased plant height. The SSR marker NW3106, nearest to the 6A QTL, was also associated with greater leaf width in a breeding population that was also derived from a cross involving the high vigour donor line ‘Vigour18’. The association between the NW3106 marker and coleoptile length was validated in a second breeding population which was developed using an unrelated long coleoptile donor line. The ‘Vigour18’ allele of the QTL on chromosome 6A promoted coleoptile length and leaf width during early plant growth but was also associated with increased plant height at maturity. Markers linked to the QTL are being used to increase the frequency of increased vigour and long coleoptile alleles in early generations of breeding populations.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4


  1. Allan RE (1980) Influence of semidwarfism and genetic background on stand establishment of wheat. Crop Sci 20:634–638

  2. Allan RE, Vogel OA, Peterson CJ (1962) Seedling emergence rate of fall sown wheat and its association with plant height and coleoptile length. Agron J 54:347–350

  3. Botwright TL, Rebetzke GJ, Condon AG, Richards RA (2005) Influence of the gibberellin-insensitive Rht8 dwarfing gene on leaf epidermal cell dimensions and early vigour in wheat (Triticum aestivum L.). Ann Bot 95:631–639

  4. Ellis MH, Spielmeyer W, Rebetzke GJ, Richards RA (2002) “Perfect” markers for the Rht-B1b and Rht-D1b dwarfing genes in wheat. Theor Appl Genet 105:1038–1042

  5. Ellis MH, Rebetzke GJ, Chandler P, Bonnet D, Spielmeyer W, Richards RA (2004) The effect of different height reducing genes on the early growth of wheat. Func Plant Biol 31:583–589

  6. Ellis MH, Rebetzke GJ, Azanza F, Richards RA, Spielmeyer W (2005) Molecular mapping of gibberellin-responsive dwarfing genes in bread wheat. Theor Appl Genet 111:423–430

  7. Keyes GJ, Paolillo DJ Jr, Sorrells ME (1989) The effects of dwarfing genes Rht1 and Rht2 on cellular dimensions and rate of leaf elongation in wheat. Ann Bot 64:683–690

  8. Lander ES, Green P, Abrahamson J, Barlow W, Daly MJ, Lincoln SE, Newburg L (1987) MAPMAKER: an interactive computer package for constructing primary genetic linkage maps of experimental and natural populations. Genomics 1:174–181

  9. Lopez-Castaneda C, Richards RA, Farquhar GD (1995) Variation in early vigour between wheat and barley. Crop Sci 35:472–479

  10. Lopez-Castaneda C, Richards RA, Farquhar GD, Williamson RE (1996) Seed and seedling characteristics contributing to variation in early vigour among temperate cereals. Crop Sci 36:1257–1266

  11. Rebetzke GJ, Richards RA (1999) Genetic improvement of early vigour in wheat. Aust J Agric Res 50:291–301

  12. Rebetzke GJ, Appels R, Morrison AD, Richards RA, McDonald G, Ellis MH, Spielmeyer W, Bonnett DG (2001) Quantitative trait loci on chromosome 4B for coleoptile length and early vigour in wheat. Aust J Agric Res 52:1221–1234

  13. Rebetzke GJ, Bruce SE, Kirkegaard JA (2005) Longer coleoptiles improve emergence through crop residues to increase seedling number and biomass in wheat. Plant Soil 272:87–100

  14. Richards RA (1992) The effect of dwarfing genes in spring wheat in dry environments II. Growth, water use and water use efficiency. Aust J Agric Res 43:529–539

  15. Richards RA, Lukacs Z (2002) Seedling vigour in wheat-sources of variation for genetic and agronomic improvement. Aust J Agric Res 53:41–50

  16. Richards RA, Rebetzke GJ, Condon AG, van Herwaarden AF (2002) Breeding opportunities for increasing the efficiency of water use and crop yield in temperate cereals. Crop Sci 42:111–121

  17. Whan BR (1976) The association between coleoptile length and culm length in semidwarf and standard wheats. J Aust Inst Agric Sci 42:194–196

  18. Williams RF (1960) The physiology of growth in the wheat plant. Aust J Biol Sci 13:401–428

  19. Zadoks JC, Chang TT, Konzak CF (1974) A decimal code for the growth stages of cereals. Weed Res 14:415–421

Download references


We thank Kylie Groom, Rebecca Jolley, and Bernie Mickleson for excellent technical assistance. This work was supported by Graingene—a research joint venture between CSIRO, GRDC and Syngenta Seeds.

Author information

Correspondence to W. Spielmeyer.

Additional information

Communicated by I. Romagosa.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Spielmeyer, W., Hyles, J., Joaquim, P. et al. A QTL on chromosome 6A in bread wheat (Triticum aestivum) is associated with longer coleoptiles, greater seedling vigour and final plant height. Theor Appl Genet 115, 59–66 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00122-007-0540-2

Download citation


  • Wheat
  • Vigour
  • Coleoptile
  • QTL analysis