U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


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Date of this Version



GENETICS, 2022, 221(2), iyac065



U.S. government work


Photosynthesis is a key target to improve crop production in many species including soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.]. A challenge is that phenotyping photosynthetic traits by traditional approaches is slow and destructive. There is proof-of-concept for leaf hyperspectral reflectance as a rapid method to model photosynthetic traits. However, the crucial step of demonstrating that hyperspectral approaches can be used to advance understanding of the genetic architecture of photosynthetic traits is untested. To address this challenge, we used full-range (500-2,400 nm) leaf reflectance spectroscopy to build partial least squares regression models to estimate leaf traits, including the rate-limiting processes of photosynthesis, maximum Rubisco carboxylation rate, and maximum electron transport. In total, 11 models were produced from a diverse population of soybean sampled over multiple field seasons to estimate photosynthetic parameters, chlorophyll content, leaf carbon and leaf nitrogen percentage, and specific leaf area (with R2 from 0.56 to 0.96 and root mean square error approximately <10% of the range of calibration data). We explore the utility of these models by applying them to the soybean nested association mapping population, which showed variability in photosynthetic and leaf traits. Genetic mapping provided insights into the underlying genetic architecture of photosynthetic traits and potential improvement in soybean. Notably, the maximum Rubisco carboxylation rate mapped to a region of chromosome 19 containing genes encoding multiple small subunits of Rubisco. We also mapped the maximum electron transport rate to a region of chromosome 10 containing a fructose 1,6-bisphosphatase gene, encoding an important enzyme in the regeneration of ribulose 1,5-bisphosphate and the sucrose biosynthetic pathway. The estimated rate-limiting steps of photosynthesis were low or negatively correlated with yield suggesting that these traits are not influenced by the same genetic mechanisms and are not limiting yield in the soybean NAM population. Leaf carbon percentage, leaf nitrogen percentage, and specific leaf area showed strong correlations with yield and may be of interest in breeding programs as a proxy for yield. This work is among the first to use hyperspectral reflectance to model and map the genetic architecture of the rate-limiting steps of photosynthesis.

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