An investigation of genotype-phenotype association in a festulolium forage grass population containing genome-spanning Festuca pratensis chromosome segments in a Lolium perenne background

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Abstract

Alien chromosome introgression is used for the transfer of beneficial traits in plant breeding. For temperate forage grasses, much of the work in this context has focused on species within the ryegrasses (Lolium spp.) and the closely related fescues (Festuca spp.) particularly with a view to combining high forage quality with reliability and enhanced environmental services. We have analysed a L. perenne (perennial ryegrass) population containing the majority of a F. pratensis (meadow fescue) genome as introgressed chromosome segments to identify a) marker-trait associations for nutrient use and abiotic stress response across the family, and b) to assess the effects of introgression of F. pratensis genomic regions on phenotype. Using container-based assays and a system of flowing solution culture, we looked at phenotype responses, including root growth, to nitrogen and phosphorus status in the growing medium and abiotic stresses within this festulolium family. A number of significant marker/trait associations were identified across the family for root biomass on chromosomes 2, 3 and 5 and for heading date on chromosome 2. Of particular interest was a region on chromosome 2 associated with increased root biomass in phosphorus-limited conditions derived from one of the L. perenne parents. A genotype containing F. pratensis chromosome 4 as a monosomic introgression showed increased tiller number, shoot and root growth and genotypes with F. pratensis chromosome segment introgressions at different ends of chromosome 4 exhibited differential phenotypes across a variety of test conditions. There was also a general negative correlation between the extent of the F. pratensis genome that had been introgressed and root-related trait performances. We conclude that 1) the identification of alleles affecting root growth has potential application in forage grass breeding and, 2) F. pratensis introgressions can enhance quantitative traits, however, introgression can also have more general negative effects