Greater early vigour has potential for increasing biomass and grain yields of wheat crops in Mediterranean-type environments. Embryo size is an important determinant of early vigour in barley and likely to contribute to greater vigour in wheat. Little is known of the underlying genetic control for embryo size, or its genetic association with early vigour in wheat. Over 150 doubled-haploid lines in each of three unrelated wheat populations varying for embryo size and early vigour were phenotyped across multiple controlled environments. The Quantitative Trait Locus (QTL) mapping was then undertaken to understand genetic control and chromosomal location of these characteristics. Genotypic variance was large and repeatable for embryo and leaf size (width and length) but not specific leaf area or coleoptile tiller size. Genetic correlations for embryo size with leaf width and area were moderate to strong in size while repeatabilities for embryo size and early vigour were high on a line-mean basis. Multiple genomic regions were identified of commonly small genetic effect for each trait with many of these regions being common across populations. Further, collocation of regions for many traits inferred a common genetic basis for many of these traits. Chromosomes 1B, 5B, 7A and 7D, and the Rht-B1b
-containing chromosomes 4B and 4D contained QTL for embryo size and leaf width. These studies indicate that while early vigour is a genetically complex trait, the selection of larger embryo progeny can be readily achieved in a wheat breeding program targeting development of high vigour lines.
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