Wheat kernel shape and size has been under selection since early domestication. Kernel morphology is a major consideration in wheat breeding, as it impacts grain yield and quality. A population of 160 recombinant inbred lines (RIL), developed using an elite (ND 705) and a nonadapted genotype (PI 414566), was extensively phenotyped in replicated field trials and genotyped using Infinium iSelect 90K assay to gain insight into the genetic architecture of kernel shape and size. A high density genetic map consisting of 10,172 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers, with an average marker density of 0.39 cM/marker, identified a total of 29 genomic regions associated with six grain shape and size traits; ~80% of these regions were associated with multiple traits. The analyses showed that kernel length (KL) and width (KW) are genetically independent, while a large number (~59%) of the quantitative trait loci (QTL) for kernel shape traits were in common with genomic regions associated with kernel size traits. The most significant QTL was identified on chromosome 4B, and could be an ortholog of major rice grain size and shape gene GS3or qGL3. Major and stable loci also were identified on the homeologous regions of Group 5 chromosomes, and in the regions of TaGW2(6A) and TaGASR7(7A) genes. Both parental genotypes contributed equivalent positive QTL alleles, suggesting that the nonadapted germplasm has a great potential for enhancing the gene pool for grain shape and size. This study provides new knowledge on the genetic dissection of kernel morphology, with a much higher resolution, which may aid further improvement in wheat yield and quality using genomic tools.
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