Quantitative genetic analysis of biomass and wood chemistry of Populus under different nitrogen levels
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- • The genetic control of carbon allocation and partitioning in woody perennial plants is poorly understood despite its importance for carbon sequestration, biofuels and other wood-based industries. It is also unclear how environmental cues, such as nitrogen availability, impact the genes that regulate growth, biomass allocation and wood composition in trees.
- • We phenotyped 396 clonally replicated genotypes of an interspecific pseudo-backcross pedigree of Populus for wood composition and biomass traits in above- and below-ground organs. The loci that regulate growth, carbon allocation and partitioning under two nitrogen conditions were identified, defining the contribution of environmental cues to their genetic control.
- • Sixty-three quantitative trait loci were identified for the 20 traits analyzed. The majority of quantitative trait loci are specific to one of the two nitrogen treatments, demonstrating significant nitrogen-dependent genetic control. A highly significant genetic correlation was observed between plant growth and lignin/cellulose composition, and quantitative trait loci co-localization identified the genomic position of potential pleiotropic regulators.
- • Pleiotropic loci linking higher growth rates to wood with less lignin are excellent targets to engineer tree germplasm improved for pulp, paper and cellulosic ethanol production. The causative genes are being identified with a genetical genomics approach.