Agronomic, physiological and genetic changes associated with evolution, migration and modern breeding in durum wheat
A panel of 172 Mediterranean durum wheat landraces and 200 modern cultivars was phenotyped during three years for 21 agronomic and physiological traits and genotyped with 46,161 DArTseq markers. Modern cultivars showed greater yield, number of grains per spike (NGS) and harvest index (HI), but similar number of spikes per unit area (NS) and grain weight than the landraces. Modern cultivars had earlier heading but longer heading-anthesis and grain-filling periods than the landraces. They had greater RUE (Radiation Use Efficiency) up to anthesis and lower canopy temperature at anthesis than the landraces, but the opposite was true during the grain-filling period. Landraces produced more biomass at both anthesis and maturity. The 120 genotypes with a membership coefficient q > 0.8 to the five genetic subpopulations (SP) that structured the panel were related with the geographic distribution and evolutionary history of durum wheat. SP1 included landraces from eastern countries, the domestication region of the “Fertile Crescent.” SP2 and SP3 consisted of landraces from the north and the south Mediterranean shores, where durum wheat spread during its migration westward. Decreases in NS, grain-filling duration and HI, but increases in early soil coverage, days to heading, biomass at anthesis, grain-filling rate, plant height and peduncle length occurred during this migration. SP4 grouped modern cultivars gathering the CIMMYT/ICARDA genetic background, and SP5 contained modern north-American cultivars. SP4 was agronomically distant from the landraces, but SP5 was genetically and agronomically close to SP1. GWAS identified 2,046 marker-trait associations (MTA) and 144 QTL hotspots integrating 1,927 MTAs. Thirty-nine haplotype blocks (HB) with allelic differences among SPs and associated with 16 agronomic traits were identified within 13 QTL hotspots. Alleles in chromosomes 5A and 7A detected in landraces were associated with decreased yield. The late heading and short grain-filling period of SP2 and SP3 were associated with a hotspot on chromosome 7B. The heavy grains of SP3 were associated with hotspots on chromosomes 2A and 7A. The greater NGS and HI of modern cultivars were associated with allelic variants on chromosome 7A. A hotspot on chromosome 3A was associated with the high NGS, earliness and short stature of SP4.