Ancestral QTL alleles from wild emmer wheat improve drought resistance and productivity in modern wheat cultivars
Wild emmer wheat (Triticum turgidum ssp. dicoccoides) is considered a promising source for improving stress resistances in domesticated wheat. Here we explored the potential of selected quantitative trait loci (QTLs) from wild emmer wheat, introgressed via marker-assisted selection, to enhance drought resistance in elite durum (T. turgidum ssp. durum) and bread (T. aestivum) wheat cultivars. The resultant near-isogenic lines (BC3F3 and BC3F4) were genotyped using SNP array to confirm the introgressed genomic regions and evaluated in two consecutive years under well-watered (690–710 mm) and water-limited (290–320 mm) conditions. Three of the introgressed QTLs were successfully validated, two in the background of durum wheat cv. Uzan (on chromosomes 1BL and 2BS), and one in the background of bread wheat cvs. Bar Nir and Zahir (chromosome 7AS). In most cases, the QTL x environment interaction was validated in terms of improved grain yield and biomass—specifically under drought (7AS QTL in cv. Bar Nir background), under both treatments (2BS QTL), and a greater stability across treatments (1BL QTL). The results provide a first demonstration that introgression of wild emmer QTL alleles can enhance productivity and yield stability across environments in domesticated wheat, thereby enriching the modern gene pool with essential diversity for the improvement of drought resistance.