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QTL And Drought Effects On Leaf Physiology In Lowland Panicum Virgatum

S. H. Taylor, D. B. Lowry, Michael J Aspinwall, Jason E. Bonnette, P. Fay, T. Juenger
Published 2016 · Biology

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Switchgrass is a key component of plans to develop sustainable cellulosic ethanol production for bioenergy in the USA. We sought quantitative trait loci (QTL) for leaf structure and function, using the Albany full-sib mapping population, an F1 derived from lowland tetraploid parents. We also assessed both genotype × environment interactions (G×E) in response to drought and spatial trends within experimental plots, using the mapping population and check clones drawn from the parent cultivars. Phenotypes for leaf structure and physiological performance were determined under well-watered conditions in two consecutive years, and we applied drought to one of two replicates to test for G×E. Phenotypes for check clones varied with location in our plot and were impacted by drought, but there was limited evidence of G×E except in quantum yield (ΦPSII). Phenotypes of Albany were also influenced by plant location within our plot, and after correcting for experimental design factors and spatial effects, we detected QTL for leaf size, tissue density (LMA), and stomatal conductance (gs). Clear evidence of G×E was detected at a QTL for intrinsic water use efficiency (iWUE) that was expressed only under drought. Loci influencing physiological traits had small additive effects, showed complex patterns of heritability, and did not co-localize with QTL for morphological traits. These insights into the genetic architecture of leaf structure and function set the stage for consideration of leaf physiological phenotypes as a component of switchgrass improvement for bioenergy purposes.
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