A-maize-ing Diversity

Science  07 Aug 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5941, pp. 688-689
DOI: 10.1126/science.1178420

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Maize (Zea mays)—corn—is a staple food source in much of the world, as well as a source of cooking oil, grain alcohol, livestock feed, and biofuel. There is enormous quantitative variation among maize strains for traits of agronomic importance, due to allelic variation at multiple quantitative trait loci (QTLs) with effects that are sensitive to the environment. Knowledge of the genetic basis of this variation (see the figure) would be a major boon to selective breeding programs, but has been hindered by the difficulty of mapping the underlying QTLs. On pages 714 and 737 of this issue (1, 2), Buckler and colleagues describe the genetic properties of a new resource for mapping maize quantitative traits (3), and discuss the genetic architecture of a key trait—flowering time—derived from it.