Genetic control of water and nitrate capture and their use efficiency in lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.)

Pauline J. Kerbiriou, Chris A. Maliepaard, Tjeerd Jan Stomph, Martin Koper, Dorothee Froissart, Ilja Roobeek, Edith T. Lammerts Van Bueren, Paul C. Struik*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Robustness in lettuce, defined as the ability to produce stable yields across a wide range of environments, may be associated with below-ground traits such as water and nitrate capture. In lettuce, research on the role of root traits in resource acquisition has been rather limited. Exploring genetic variation for such traits and shoot performance in lettuce across environments can contribute to breeding for robustness. A population of 142 lettuce cultivars was evaluated during two seasons (spring and summer) in two different locations under organic cropping conditions, and water and nitrate capture below-ground and accumulation in the shoots were assessed at two sampling dates. Resource capture in each soil layer was measured using a volumetric method based on fresh and dry weight difference in the soil for soil moisture, and using an ion-specific electrode for nitrate. We used these results to carry out an association mapping study based on 1170 single nucleotide polymorphism markers. We demonstrated that our indirect, high-throughput phenotyping methodology was reliable and capable of quantifying genetic variation in resource capture. QTLs for below-ground traits were not detected at early sampling. Significant marker-trait associations were detected across trials for below-ground and shoot traits, in number and position varying with trial, highlighting the importance of the growing environment on the expression of the traits measured. The difficulty of identifying general patterns in the expression of the QTLs for below-ground traits across different environments calls for a more in-depth analysis of the physiological mechanisms at root level allowing sustained shoot growth.

Original languageEnglish
Article number343
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Association mapping
  • Lettuce
  • Nitrogen use efficiency
  • Quantitative trait loci
  • Resource acquisition
  • Soil sampling


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