Genetic architecture and QTL selection response for Kernza perennial grain domestication traits

  • Jesse Poland (Creator)
  • Jared Crain (Creator)
  • Steve Larson (Creator)
  • Kevin Dorn (Creator)
  • Lee DeHaan (Creator)



    Perennial grains have the potential to provide food for humans and decrease the negative impacts of annual agriculture. Intermediate wheatgrass (IWG, Thinopyrum intermedium, Kernza®) is a promising perennial grain candidate that The Land Institute has been breeding since 2003. We evaluated four consecutive breeding cycles of IWG from 2016-2020 with each cycle containing approximately 1100 unique plants. Using genotyping-by-sequencing markers, quantitative trait loci (QTL) were mapped for 34 different traits using genome-wide association analysis. Combining data across cycles and years, we found 93 marker-trait associations (MTA) for 16 different traits, with each association explaining 0.8-5.2% of the observed phenotypic variance. Across the four cycles, only three QTL showed an F$_{ST}$ differentiation > 0.15 with two corresponding to a decrease in floret shattering. Additionally, one marker associated with brittle rachis was 216 bp from an ortholog of the btr2 gene. Power analysis and quantitative genetic theory was used to estimate the effective number of QTL, which ranged from a minimum of 33 up to 558 QTL for individual traits. This study suggests that key agronomic and domestication traits are under polygenic control, and that molecular methods like genomic selection are needed to accelerate domestication and improvement of this new crop.
    Date made availableMay 9 2022

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