Genetic variation at flowering time loci in wild and cultivated barley

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Cockram, James ; Hones, Huw ; O'Sullivan, Donal M. (2011)

The worldwide spread of barley cultivation required adaptation to agricultural environments far distant from those found in its centre of domestication. An important component of this adaptation is the timing of flowering, achieved predominantly in response to day length and temperature. Here, we use a collection of cultivars, landraces and wild barley accessions to investigate the origins and distribution of allelic diversity at four major flowering time loci, mutations at which have been under selection during the spread of barley cultivation into Europe. Our findings suggest that while mutant alleles at the PPD-H1 and PPD-H2 photoperiod loci occurred pre-domestication, the mutant vernalization non-responsive alleles utilized in landraces and cultivars at the VRN-H1 and VRN-H2 loci occurred post-domestication. The transition from wild to cultivated barley is associated with a doubling in the number of observed multi-locus flowering-time haplotypes, suggesting that the resulting phenotypic variation has aided adaptation to cultivation in the diverse ecogeographic locations encountered. Despite the importance of early-flowering alleles during the domestication of barley in Europe, we show that novel VRN alleles associated with early flowering in wild barley have been lost in domesticates, highlighting the potential of wild germplasm as a source of novel allelic variation for agronomic traits.
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