Key message: To improve an elite soybean line, introgress longer chromosome segments instead of QTL alleles from exotic germplasm. Abstract: Broadening the diversity of cultivated soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merrill] through introgression of exotic germplasm has been difficult. Our objectives were to (1) determine if introgressing specific chromosome segments (instead of quantitative trait locus alleles) from exotic soybean germplasm has potential for improving an elite cultivar, and (2) identify strategies to introgress and pyramid exotic chromosome segments into an elite cultivar. We estimated genomewide marker effects for yield and other traits in seven crosses between the elite line IA3023 and seven soybean plant introductions (PIs). We then predicted genetic gains from having ≤ 2 targeted recombinations per linkage group. When introgression was modeled for yield while controlling maturity in the seven PI × IA3023 populations, the predicted yield was 8–25% over the yield of IA3023. Correlated changes in maturity, seed traits, lodging, and plant height were generally small but were in the favorable direction. In contrast, selecting the best recombinant inbred (without targeted recombination) in each of the PI × IA3023 populations led to negative or minimal yield gains over IA3023. In one PI × IA3023 population, introgressing and pyramiding only two linkage groups from recombinant inbreds into IA3023 was predicted to achieve an 8% yield gain over IA3023 without sacrificing the performance for other traits. The probability of inheriting intact chromosomes was high enough to allow introgression and pyramiding of chromosome segments in 5–6 generations. Overall, our study suggested that introgressing specific chromosome segments is an effective way to introduce exotic soybean germplasm into an elite cultivar.
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