Genetic Dissection of Bloom Time in Low Chilling Sweet Cherry (Prunus avium L.) Using a Multi-Family QTL Approach
Bloom time in sweet cherry (Prunus avium L.) is a highly heritable trait that varies between genotypes and depends on the environmental conditions. Bud-break occurs after chill and heat requirements of each genotype are fulfilled, and dormancy is released. Bloom time is a critical trait for fruit production as matching cultivar adaptation to the growing area is essential for adequate fruit set. Additionally, low chilling cultivars are of interest to extend sweet cherry production to warmer regions, and for the crop adaptation to increasing winter and spring temperatures. The aim of this work is to investigate the genetic control of this trait by analyzing multiple families derived from the low chilling and extra-early flowering local Spanish cultivar ‘Cristobalina’ and other cultivars with higher chilling requirements and medium to late bloom times. Bloom time evaluation in six related sweet cherry populations confirmed a high heritability of this trait, and skewed distribution toward late flowering, revealing possible dominance of the late bloom alleles. SNP genotyping of the six populations (n = 406) resulted in a consensus map of 1269 SNPs. Quantitative trait loci (QTL) analysis using the Bayesian approach implemented by FlexQTL™ software revealed two major QTLs on linkage groups 1 and 2 (qP-BT1.1m and qP-BT2.1m) that explained 47.6% of the phenotypic variation. The QTL on linkage group 1 was mapped to a 0.26 Mbp region that overlaps with the DORMANCY ASSOCIATED MADS-BOX (DAM) genes. This finding is consistent with peach results that indicate that these genes are major determinants of chilling requirement in Prunus. Haplotype analysis of the linkage group 1 and 2 QTL regions showed that ‘Cristobalina’ was the only cultivar tested that contributed early bloom time alleles for these two QTLs. This work contributes to knowledge of the genetic control of chilling requirement and bloom date and will enable marker-assisted selection for low chilling in sweet cherry breeding programs.
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