Quantitative trait loci associated with traits determining grain and stover yield in pearl millet under terminal drought-stress conditions.
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Drought stress during the reproductive stage is one of the most important environmental factors reducing the grain yield and yield stability of pearl millet. A QTL mapping approach has been used in this study to understand the genetic and physiological basis of drought tolerance in pearl millet and to provide a more-targeted approach to improving the drought tolerance and yield of this crop in water-limited environments. The aim was to identify specific genomic regions associated with the enhanced tolerance of pearl millet to drought stress during the flowering and grain-filling stages. Test-crosses of a set of mapping-population progenies, derived from a cross of two inbred pollinators that differed in their response to drought, were evaluated in a range of managed terminal drought-stress environments. A number of genomic regions were associated with drought tolerance in terms of both grain yield and its components. For example, a QTL associated with grain yield per se and for the drought tolerance of grain yield mapped on linkage group 2 and explained up to 23% of the phenotypic variation. Some of these QTLs were common across stress environments whereas others were specific to only a particular stress environment. All the QTLs that contributed to increased drought tolerance did so either through better than average maintenance (compared to non-stress environments) of harvest index, or harvest index and biomass productivity. It is concluded that there is considerable potential for marker-assisted backcross transfer of selected QTLs to the elite parent of the mapping population and for their general use in the improvement of pearl millet productivity in water-limited environments
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