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Genetic dissection of grain yield in bread wheat. I. QTL analysis

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Grain yield forms one of the key economic drivers behind a successful wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) cropping enterprise and is consequently a major target for wheat breeding programmes. However, due to its complex nature, little is known regarding the genetic control of grain yield. A doubled-haploid population, comprising 182 individuals, produced from a cross between two cultivars ‘Trident’ and ‘Molineux’, was used to construct a linkage map based largely on microsatellite molecular makers. ‘Trident’ represents a lineage of wheat varieties from southern Australia that has achieved consistently high relative grain yield across a range of environments. In comparison, ‘Molineux’ would be rated as a variety with low to moderate grain yield. The doubled-haploid population was grown from 2002 to 2005 in replicated field experiments at a range of environments across the southern Australian wheat belt. In total, grain yield data were recorded for the population at 18 site-year combinations. Grain yield components were also measured at three of these environments. Many loci previously found to be involved in the control of plant height, rust resistance and ear-emergence were found to influence grain yield and grain yield components in this population. An additional nine QTL, apparently unrelated to these traits, were also associated with grain yield. A QTL associated with grain yield on chromosome 1B, with no significant relationship with plant height, ear-emergence or rust resistance, was detected (LOD ≥2) at eight of the 18 environments. The mean yield, across 18 environments, of individuals carrying the ‘Molineux’ allele at the 1B locus was 4.8% higher than the mean grain yield of those lines carrying the ‘Trident’ allele at this locus. Another QTL identified on chromosome 4D was also associated with overall gain yield at six of the 18 environments. Of the nine grain yield QTL not shown to be associated with plant height, phenology or rust resistance, two were located near QTL associated with grain yield components. A third QTL, associated with grain yield components at each of the environments used for testing, was located on chromosome 7D. However, this QTL was not associated with grain yield at any of the environments. The implications of these findings on marker-assisted selection for grain yield are discussed.

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Fig. 1

Similar content being viewed by others




G.M−2 :

Grains per square metre

G.H−1 :

Grains per head

H.P−1 :

Heads per plant


Marker assisted selection


Multiple environment trial


Quantitative trait locus


Thousand grain weight




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The authors would like to thank the staff at AGT for their assistance collecting phenotypic data and the staff at the SARDI molecular genetic laboratory for the production of the genetic linkage map used in this study. We would also like to thank Mr. P. Eckermann for his help calculating predicted QTL genotypes, and a reviewer of an earlier version of this paper for their helpful suggestions. Our appreciation is extended to the Molecular Plant Breeding Cooperative Research Centre and the Grains Research and Development Corporation for their financial assistance.

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Correspondence to H. Kuchel.

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Communicated by C.-C. Schön.

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Kuchel, H., Williams, K.J., Langridge, P. et al. Genetic dissection of grain yield in bread wheat. I. QTL analysis. Theor Appl Genet 115, 1029–1041 (2007).

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