Variations in phenological, physiological, plant architectural and yield-related traits, their associations with grain yield and genetic basis
Background and Aims: Physiological and morphological traits play essential roles in wheat (Triticum aestivum) growth and development. In particular, photosynthesis is a limitation to yield. Increasing photosynthesis in wheat has been identified as an important strategy to increase yield. However, the genotypic variations and the genomic regions governing morphological, architectural and photosynthesis traits remain unexplored. Methods: Here, we conducted a large-scale investigation of the phenological, physiological, plant architectural and yield-related traits, involving 32 traits for 166 wheat lines during 2018-2020 in four environments, and performed a genome-wide association study with wheat 90K and 660K single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) arrays. Key Results: These traits exhibited considerable genotypic variations in the wheat diversity panel. Higher yield was associated with higher net photosynthetic rate (r = 0.41, P < 0.01), thousand-grain weight (r = 0.36, P < 0.01) and truncated and lanceolate shape, but shorter plant height (r = -0.63, P < 0.01), flag leaf angle (r = -0.49, P < 0.01) and spike number per square metre (r = -0.22, P < 0.01). Genome-wide association mapping discovered 1236 significant stable loci detected in the four environments among the 32 traits using SNP markers. Trait values have a cumulative effect as the number of the favourable alleles increases, and significant progress has been made in determining phenotypic values and favourable alleles over the years. Eleven elite cultivars and 14 traits associated with grain yield per plot (GY) were identified as potential parental lines and as target traits to develop high-yielding cultivars. Conclusions: This study provides new insights into the phenotypic and genetic elucidation of physiological and morphological traits in wheat and their associations with GY, paving the way for discovering their underlying gene control and for developing enhanced ideotypes in wheat breeding.