Image_2_Genome-Wide Association Study of Salinity Tolerance During Germination in Barley (Hordeum vulgare L.).png

Barley seeds need to be able to germinate and establish seedlings in saline soils in Mediterranean-type climates. Despite being a major cereal crop, barley has few reported quantitative trait loci (QTL) and candidate genes underlying salt tolerance at the germination stage. Breeding programs targeting salinity tolerance at germination require an understanding of genetic loci and alleles in the current germplasm. In this study, we investigated seed-germination-related traits under control and salt stress conditions in 350 diverse barley accessions. A genome-wide association study, using ~24,000 genetic markers, was undertaken to detect marker-trait associations (MTA) and the underlying candidate genes for salinity tolerance during germination. We detected 19 loci containing 52 significant salt-tolerance-associated markers across all chromosomes, and 4 genes belonging to 4 family functions underlying the predicted MTAs. Our results provide new genetic resources and information to improve salt tolerance at germination in future barley varieties via genomic and marker-assisted selection and to open up avenues for further functional characterization of the identified candidate genes.