Indexed on: 22 Jul '14Published on: 22 Jul '14Published in: Nature
Environmental constraints severely restrict crop yields in most production environments, and expanding the use of variation will underpin future progress in breeding. In semi-arid environments boron toxicity constrains productivity, and genetic improvement is the only effective strategy for addressing the problem. Wheat breeders have sought and used available genetic diversity from landraces to maintain yield in these environments; however, the identity of the genes at the major tolerance loci was unknown. Here we describe the identification of near-identical, root-specific boron transporter genes underlying the two major-effect quantitative trait loci for boron tolerance in wheat, Bo1 and Bo4 (ref. 2). We show that tolerance to a high concentration of boron is associated with multiple genomic changes including tetraploid introgression, dispersed gene duplication, and variation in gene structure and transcript level. An allelic series was identified from a panel of bread and durum wheat cultivars and landraces originating from diverse agronomic zones. Our results demonstrate that, during selection, breeders have matched functionally different boron tolerance alleles to specific environments. The characterization of boron tolerance in wheat illustrates the power of the new wheat genomic resources to define key adaptive processes that have underpinned crop improvement.