Unraveling genetic mechanisms of flowering time control and other agronomically important traits in quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.)

Quinoa germplasm preserves useful and substantial genetic variation, yet it remains untapped due to a lack of implementation of modern breeding tools. We have integrated field and sequence data to characterize a large diversity panel of quinoa. Whole-genome sequencing of 310 accessions revealed 2.9 million polymorphic high confidence SNP loci. Highland and Lowland quinoa were clustered into two main groups, with FST divergence of 0.36 and fast LD decay of 6.5 and 49.8 Kb, respectively. A genome-wide association study uncovered 600 SNPs stably associated with 17 traits. Two candidate genes are associated with thousand seed weight, and a resistance gene analog is associated with downy mildew resistance. We also identified pleiotropically acting loci for four agronomic traits important for adaptation. This work demonstrates the use of re-sequencing data of an orphan crop, which is partially domesticated to rapidly identify marker-trait association and provides the underpinning elements for genomics-enabled quinoa breeding.

Response to photoperiod is of major importance in crop production. It defines the adaptation of plants to local environments. Quinoa is a short day plant which had been domesticated in the Andeans regions. We wanted to understand the adaptation to long-day conditions by studying orthologs of two major flowering time regulators of Arabidopsis, FLOWERING LOCUS T (FT) and CONSTANS (CO) in quinoa accessions with contrasting photoperiod response. By searching the quinoa reference genome sequence, we identified 24 FT and six CO homologs. CqFT genes displayed remarkably different expression patterns between long-day and short-day conditions, whereas the influence of the photoperiod on CqCOL gene expressions was moderate. Cultivation of 276 quinoa accessions under short-day and long-day conditions revealed great differences in photoperiod sensitivity. After sequencing their genomes, we identified large sequence variations in 12 flowering time genes. We found non-random distribution of haplotypes across accessions from different geographical origins, highlighting the role of CqFT and CqCOL genes in the adaptation to different day-length conditions. We identified five haplotypes causing early flowering under long days. This study provides assets for quinoa breeding because superior haplotypes can be assembled in a predictive breeding approach to produce well-adapted early flowering lines under long-day photoperiods.


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