Flowering time is an important trait in wheat breeding as it affects adaptation and yield potential. The aim of this study was to investigate the genetic architecture of flowering time in European winter bread wheat cultivars. To this end a population of 410 winter wheat varieties was evaluated in multi-location field trials and genotyped by a genotyping-by-sequencing approach and candidate gene markers. Our analyses revealed that the photoperiod regulator Ppd-D1 is the major factor affecting flowering time in this germplasm set, explaining 58% of the genotypic variance. Copy number variation at the Ppd-B1 locus was present but explains only 3.2% and thus a comparably small proportion of genotypic variance. By contrast, the plant height loci Rht-B1 and Rht-D1 had no effect on flowering time. The genome-wide scan identified six QTL which each explain only a small proportion of genotypic variance and in addition we identified a number of epistatic QTL, also with small effects. Taken together, our results show that flowering time in European winter bread wheat cultivars is mainly controlled by Ppd-D1 while the fine tuning to local climatic conditions is achieved through Ppd-B1 copy number variation and a larger number of QTL with small effects
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