Image_7_Phenotypic Variation and Genetic Architecture for Photosynthesis and Water Use Efficiency in Soybean (Glycine max L. Merr).JPEG

Photosynthesis (A) and intrinsic water use efficiency (WUE) are physiological traits directly influencing biomass production, conversion efficiency, and grain yield. Though the influence of physiological process on yield is widely known, studies assessing improvement strategies are rare due to laborious phenotyping and specialized equipment needs. This is one of the first studies to assess the genetic architecture underlying A and intrinsic WUE, as well as to evaluate the feasibility of implementing genomic prediction. A panel of 383 soybean recombinant inbred lines were evaluated in a multi-environment yield trial that included measurements of A and intrinsic WUE, using an infrared gas analyzer during R4–R5 growth stages. Genetic variability was found to support the possibility of genetic improvement through breeding. High genetic correlation between grain yield (GY) and A (0.80) was observed, suggesting increases in GY can be achieved through the improvement of A. Genome-wide association analysis revealed quantitative trait loci (QTLs) for these physiological traits. Cross-validation studies indicated high predictive ability (>0.65) for the implementation of genomic prediction as a viable strategy to improve physiological efficiency while reducing field phenotyping. This work provides core knowledge to develop new soybean cultivars with enhanced photosynthesis and water use efficiency through conventional breeding and genomic techniques.