Joint linkage and association mapping of complex traits in shrub willow

Increasing energy demands and the necessity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are key motivating factors driving the development of lignocellulosic crops as an alternative to non-renewable energy sources. The effects of global climate change will require a better understanding of the genetic basis of complex adaptive traits to breed more resilient bioenergy feedstocks, like willow (Salix spp.). Shrub willow is a sustainable and dedicated bioenergy crop, bred to be fast-growing and high-yielding on marginal land without competing with food crops. In a rapidly changing climate, genomic advances will be vital for the sustained improvement of willow and other non-model bioenergy crops. Carlson et al. used joint genetic mapping to exploit genetic variation garnered from both recent and historical recombination events in S. purpurea.

Salix purpurea
Image: Salix purpurea. Sten Porse / Wikipedia

Individually, genome-wide association (GWAS) models differed in terms of power, but the combined approach, which corrects for yearly and environmental co-factors across datasets, improved the overall detection and resolution of associated loci. Although there were few significant GWAS hits located within support intervals of QTL for corresponding traits in the F2, many large-effect QTL were identified, as well as QTL hotspots.

This study provides the first comparison of linkage analysis and linkage disequilibrium mapping approaches in Salix , and highlights the complementarity and limits of these two methods for elucidating the genetic architecture of complex bioenergy-related traits of a woody perennial breeding programme.

Further reading

Carlson, C. H., Gouker, F. E., Crowell, C. R., Evans, L., DiFazio, S. P., Smart, C. D., & Smart, L. B. (2019). Joint linkage and association mapping of complex traits in shrub willow (Salix purpurea L.). Annals of Botany. https://doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcz047