Interactions between two QTLs for time to anthesis on spike development and fertility in wheat.

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Earliness per se (Eps) genes are reported to be important in fine-tuning flowering time in wheat independently of photoperiod (Ppd) and vernalisation (Vrn). Unlike Ppd and Vrn genes, Eps have relatively small effects and their physiological effect along with chromosomal position are not well defined. We evaluated eight lines derived from crossing two vernalisation insensitive lines, Paragon and Baj (late and early flowering respectively), to study the detailed effects of two newly identified QTLs, Eps-7D and Eps-2B and their interactions under field conditions. The effect of both QTLs was minor and was affected by the allelic status of the other. While the magnitude of effect of these QTLs on anthesis was similar, they are associated with very different profiles of pre-anthesis development which also depends on their interaction. Eps-7D affected both duration before and after terminal spikelet while not affecting final leaf number (FLN) so Eps-7D-early had a faster rate of leaf appearance. Eps-2B acted more specifically in the early reproductive phase and slightly altered FLN without affecting the leaf appearance rate. Both QTLs affected the spike fertility by altering the rate of floret development and mortality. The effect of Eps-2B was very small but consistent in that -late allele tended to produce more fertile florets.