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Genetic dynamics of earlier maturity group emergence in south-to-north extension of Northeast China soybeans

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Key message

This population genetic study is characterized with direct comparisons of days to flowering QTL–allele matrices between newly evolved and originally old maturity groups of soybeans to explore its evolutionary dynamics using the RTM-GWAS procedure.


The Northeast China (NEC) soybeans are the major germplasm source of modern soybean production in Americas (> 80% of the world total). NEC is a relatively new soybean area in China, expanded after its nomadic status in the seventeenth century. At nine sites of four ecoregions in NEC, 361 varieties were tested for their days to flowering (DTF), a geography-sensitive trait as an indicator for maturity groups (MGs). The DTF reduced obviously along with soybeans extended to higher latitudes, ranging in 41–83 days and MG 000-III. Using the RTM-GWAS (restricted two-stage multi-locus model genome-wide association study) procedure, 81 QTLs with 342 alleles were identified, accounting for 77.85% genetic contribution (R2 = 0.01–7.74%/locus), and other 20.75% (98.60–77.85%, h2 = 98.60%) genetic variation was due to a collective of unmapped QTLs. With soybeans northward, breeding effort made the original MG I–III evolved to MG 0-00-000. In direct comparisons of QTL–allele matrices among MGs, the genetic dynamics are identified with local exotic introduction/migration (58.48%) as the first and selection against/exclusion of positive alleles causing new recombination (40.64%) as the second, while only a few allele emergence/mutation happened (0.88%, limited in MG 0, not in MG 00-000). In new MG emergence, 24 QTLs with 19 candidate genes are the major sources. A genetic potential of further DTF shortening (13–21 days) is predicted for NEC population. The QTL detection in individual ecoregions showed various ecoregion-specific QTLs–alleles/genes after co-localization treatment (removing the random environment shifting ones).

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This work was financially supported through the grants from the National Key R&D Program for Crop Breeding in China (2016YFD0100304, 2017YFD0101500, 2017YFD0102002), the Natural Science Foundation of China (31371651, 31671718, 31571695), the MOE 111 Project (B08025), the MOE Program for Changjiang Scholars and Innovative Research Team in University (PCSIRT_17R55), the MARA CARS-04 program, the Jiangsu Higher Education PAPD Program, the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (KYT201801) and the Jiangsu JCIC-MCP, The funders had no role in work design, data collection and analysis, and decision and preparation of the manuscript.

Author information

JG conceived and designed the experiments. MF, YW, HR, DW, RB, XY, ZT, LF, YC, JS, BS and WD performed the field experiments. MF and JZ performed the genome sequencing. MF analyzed the data. MF and JG drafted the manuscript.

Correspondence to Junyi Gai.

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Fu, M., Wang, Y., Ren, H. et al. Genetic dynamics of earlier maturity group emergence in south-to-north extension of Northeast China soybeans. Theor Appl Genet (2020).

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