Agronomy and Horticulture Department



James C. Schnable

Date of this Version



PLoS ONE 10(5): e0125688. DOI: 10.1371/ journal.pone.0125688.


Copyright 2015, the authors. Open access, Creative Commons Attribution license.


Crop improvement is a multifaceted micro-evolutionary process, involving changes in breeding approaches, planting configurations and consumption preferences of human beings. Recent research has started to identify the specific genes or genomic regions correlate to improved agronomic traits, however, an apparent blank between the genetic structure of crop elite varieties and their improving histories in diverse modern breeding programs is still in existence. Foxtail millet (Setaria italica) was one of the earliest cereal crops to be domesticated and served as a staple crop for early civilizations in China, where it is still widely grown today. In the present trial, a panel of foxtail millet elite varieties, which were released in the last sixty years in different geographical regions of China, was characterized using microsatellite markers (SSRs). A clear separation of two subpopulations corresponding to the two eco-geographical regions of foxtail millet production in China was identified by the dataset, which also indicated that in more recently released elite varieties, large quantities of accessions have been transferred from spring-sowing to summer-sowing ecotypes, likely as a result of breeding response to planting configurations. An association mapping study was conducted to identify loci controlling traits of major agronomic interest. Furthermore, selective sweeps involved in improvement of foxtail millet were identified as multi-diverse minor effect loci controlling different agronomic traits during the long-term improvement of elite varieties. Our results highlight the effect of transition of planting configuration and breeding preference on genetic evolvement of crop species.