Delaying or delivering: identification of novel NAM-1 alleles that delay senescence to extend wheat grain fill duration 

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Senescence is a complex trait under genetic and environmental control, in which resources are remobilized from vegetative tissue into grain. Delayed senescence, or staygreen traits, can confer stress tolerance, with extended photosynthetic activity hypothetically sustaining grain filling. The genetics of senescence regulation are largely unknown, with senescence variation often correlated with phenological traits. Here, we confirm staygreen phenotypes of two Triticum aestivum cv. Paragon ethyl methane sulfonate mutants previously identified during a forward genetic screen and selected for their agronomic performance, similar phenology, and differential senescence phenotypes. Grain filling experiments confirmed a positive relationship between onset of senescence and grain fill duration, reporting an associated ~14% increase in final dry grain weight for one mutant (P<0.05). Recombinant inbred line (RIL) populations segregating for the timing of senescence were developed for trait mapping purposes and phenotyped over multiple years under field conditions. Quantification and comparison of senescence metrics aided RIL selection, facilitating exome capture-enabled bulk segregant analysis (BSA). Using BSA we mapped our two staygreen traits to two independent, dominant, loci of 4.8 and 16.7 Mb in size encompassing 56 and 142 genes, respectively. Combining association analysis with variant effect prediction, we identified single nucleotide polymorphisms encoding self-validating mutations located in NAM-1 homoeologues, which we propose as gene candidates.