Genomic regions for canopy temperature and their genetic association with stomatal conductance and grain yield in wheat
Stomata are the site of CO2 exchange for water in a leaf. Variation in stomatal control offers promise in genetic improvement of transpiration and photosynthetic rates to improve wheat performance. However, techniques for estimating stomatal conductance (SC) are slow, limiting potential for efficient measurement and genetic modification of this trait. Genotypic variation in canopy temperature (CT) and leaf porosity (LP), as surrogates for SC, were assessed in three wheat mapping populations grown under well-watered conditions. The range and resulting genetic variance were large but not always repeatable across days and years for CT and LP alike. Leaf-to-leaf variation was large for LP, reducing heritability to near zero on a single-leaf basis. Replication across dates and years increased line-mean heritability to ~75% for both CT and LP. Across sampling dates and populations, CT showed a large, additive genetic correlation with LP (rg = –0.67 to –0.83) as expected. Genetic increases in pre-flowering CT were associated with reduced final plant height and both increased harvest index and grain yield but were uncorrelated with aerial biomass. In contrast, post-flowering, cooler canopies were associated with greater aerial biomass and increased grain number and yield. A multi-environment QTL analysis identified up to 16 and 15 genomic regions for CT and LP, respectively, across all three populations. Several of the LP and CT QTL co-located with known QTL for plant height and phenological development and intervals for many of the CT and LP quantitative trait loci (QTL) overlapped, supporting a common genetic basis for the two traits. Notably, both Rht-B1b and Rht-D1b dwarfing alleles were paradoxically positive for LP and CT (i.e. semi-dwarfs had higher stomatal conductance but warmer canopies) highlighting the issue of translation from leaf to canopy in screening for greater transpiration. The strong requirement for repeated assessment of SC suggests the more rapid CT assessment may be of greater value for indirect screening of high or low SC among large numbers of early-generation breeding lines. However, account must be taken of variation in development and canopy architecture when interpreting performance and selecting breeding lines on the basis of CT.