Genetic control of maize plant architecture traits under contrasting plant densities

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Plant architecture has played an important role in the adaptation of maize (Zea mays L.) hybrids to historical increases in plant density in order to maximize yields per unit area. At high density, a compact plant structure would allow for less interference by light among plants of the row and a deeper penetration of the radiation towards the lowest canopy layers, without compromising the capture of radiation at crop level. The genetic control of plant architecture traits of maize under contrasting plant densities remains poorly understood. In this work, traits related to leaf and stem architecture were phenotypically analyzed and QTLs were mapped using 160 RILs from the IBM B73 × Mo17 Syn4 population cultivated at low density and high density during 2013–2014 and 2014–2015 growing seasons in Buenos Aires province, Argentina. Forty-nine QTLs were detected on chromosomes 1, 3, 4, 5, 9 and 10. Most QTLs of vertical insertion angle of leaves and leaf orientation value (i.e., vertical angle affected by the curvature of leaves) were detected on chromosome 5 at high density and showed a high percentage of co-location. Detected QTLs for plant and ear height, and the relationship between them were concentrated on chromosome 9, with consistent effect under different density × environment combinations. These regions had large-effect QTLs and constitute hot spots that need to be studied in more detail to determine their potential use in breeding programs.

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The authors wish to thank J. Fuentes and M. Rodriguez for their valuable assistance during the experiments. We also thank Dr. Santiago Alvarez Prado, Dr. Lucas Borrás and Dr. Maia Fradkin for his valuable collaboration with the QTL analysis, for supplying seeds of RILs population and their parental lines and for helping with the elaboration of the figures, respectively. This work was supported by the Universidad Nacional de Lomas de Zamora (Lomas CyT Program), the University of Buenos Aires (UBACyT 2014- 20020130100493BA), and the National Agency for the promotion of Science and Technology (PICT 2012-1260). S.J.P. Incognito had a graduate’s scholarship from the National Council of Research (CONICET) of Argentina. G.A. Maddonni is a member of CONICET.

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Incognito, S.J.P., Maddonni, G.Á. & López, C.G. Genetic control of maize plant architecture traits under contrasting plant densities. Euphytica 216, 20 (2020).

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  • Leaf morphology
  • Canopy structure
  • Stem traits
  • Intraspecific competition
  • RILs population
  • QTL mapping