Genetic analysis of drought tolerance in maize by molecular markers. II. Plant height and flowering
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Drought is a serious agronomic problem, and one of the most important factors contributing to crop yield loss. In maize grown in temperate areas, drought stress occurs just before and during the flowering period; consequently, tolerance to water stress in this species is largely determined by events that occur at or shortly after flowering. The purposes of our investigation were: (1) to identify the chromosomal regions where factors conferring drought tolerance for traits related to plant development and flowering are located and (2) to compare these regions with those carrying QTLs controlling these traits, in order to get indirect information on the genetic and physiological basis of maize response to water stress. To this aim, we performed a linkage analysis between the expression of male and female flowering time, anthesis-silking interval (ASI), plant height and molecular markers. The experiment was carried out under two environmental conditions, well-watered and water-stressed, on a maize population of 142 recombinant inbred lines obtained by selfing the F1 between lines B73 and H99 and genotyped by RFLP, microsatellites (SSR) and AFLP markers, for a total of 153 loci. Linkage analysis revealed that, for male flowering time and plant height, most of the QTLs detected were the same under control and stress conditions. In contrast, with respect to female flowering time and ASI diverse QTLs appeared to be expressed either under control conditions or under stress. All of the QTLs conferring tolerance to drought were located in a different chromosome position as compared to the map position of the factors controlling the trait per se. This suggests that plant tolerance, in its different components, is not attributable to the presence of favourable allelic combinations controlling the trait but is based on physiological characteristics not directly associated with the control of the character.
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