Genetic Dissection of the Seminal Root System Architecture in Mediterranean Durum Wheat Landraces by Genome-Wide Association Study
Roots are crucial for adaptation to drought stress. However, phenotyping root systems is a difficult and time-consuming task due to the special feature of the traits in the process of being analyzed. Correlations between root system architecture (RSA) at the early stages of development and in adult plants have been reported. In this study, the seminal RSA was analysed on a collection of 160 durum wheat landraces from 21 Mediterranean countries and 18 modern cultivars. The landraces showed large variability in RSA, and differences in root traits were found between previously identified genetic subpopulations. Landraces from the eastern Mediterranean region, which is the driest and warmest within the Mediterranean Basin, showed the largest seminal root size in terms of root length, surface, and volume and the widest root angle, whereas landraces from eastern Balkan countries showed the lowest values. Correlations were found between RSA and yield-related traits in a very dry environment. The identification of molecular markers linked to the traits of interest detected 233 marker-trait associations for 10 RSA traits and grouped them in 82 genome regions named marker-train association quantitative trait loci (MTA-QTLs). Our results support the use of ancient local germplasm to widen the genetic background for root traits in breeding programs.