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  1. SUMMARY

    Maize (Zea maysssp.mays) populations exhibit vast ranges of genetic and phenotypic diversity. As sequencing costs have declined, an increasing number of projects have sought to measure genetic differences between and within maize populations using whole‐genome resequencing strategies, identifying millions of segregating single‐nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and insertions/deletions (InDels). Unlike older genotyping strategies like microarrays and genotyping by sequencing, resequencing should, in principle, frequently identify and score common genetic variants. However, in practice, different projects frequently employ different analytical pipelines, often employ different reference genome assemblies and consistently filter for minor allele frequency within the study population. This constrains the potential to reuse and remix data on genetic diversity generated from different projects to address new biological questions in new ways. Here, we employ resequencing data from 1276 previously published maize samples and 239 newly resequenced maize samples to generate a single unified marker set of approximately 366 million segregating variants and approximately 46 million high‐confidence variants scored across crop wild relatives, landraces as well as tropical and temperate lines from different breeding eras. We demonstrate that the new variant set provides increased power to identify known causal flowering‐time genes using previously published trait data sets, as well as the potential to track changes in the frequency of functionally distinct alleles across the global distribution of modern maize.

     
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  2. Purugganan, Michael (Ed.)
    Abstract Subgenome dominance after whole-genome duplication (WGD) has been observed in many plant species. However, the degree to which the chromatin environment affects this bias has not been explored. Here, we compared the dominant subgenome (maize1) and the recessive subgenome (maize2) with respect to patterns of sequence substitutions, genes expression, transposable element accumulation, small interfering RNAs, DNA methylation, histone modifications, and accessible chromatin regions (ACRs). Our data show that the degree of bias between subgenomes for all the measured variables does not vary significantly when both of the WGD genes are located in pericentromeric regions. Our data further indicate that the location of maize1 genes in chromosomal arms is pivotal for maize1 to maintain its dominance, but location has a less effect on maize2 homoeologs. In addition to homoeologous genes, we compared ACRs, which often harbor cis-regulatory elements, between the two subgenomes and demonstrate that maize1 ACRs have a higher level of chromatin accessibility, a lower level of sequence substitution, and are enriched in chromosomal arms. Furthermore, we find that a loss of maize1 ACRs near their nearby genes is associated with a reduction in purifying selection and expression of maize1 genes relative to their maize2 homoeologs. Taken together, our data suggest that chromatin environment and cis-regulatory elements are important determinants shaping the divergence and evolution of duplicated genes. 
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  3. Abstract

    Leaf-level hyperspectral reflectance has become an effective tool for high-throughput phenotyping of plant leaf traits due to its rapid, low-cost, multi-sensing, and non-destructive nature. However, collecting samples for model calibration can still be expensive, and models show poor transferability among different datasets. This study had three specific objectives: first, to assemble a large library of leaf hyperspectral data (n=2460) from maize and sorghum; second, to evaluate two machine-learning approaches to estimate nine leaf properties (chlorophyll, thickness, water content, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sulfur); and third, to investigate the usefulness of this spectral library for predicting external datasets (n=445) including soybean and camelina using extra-weighted spiking. Internal cross-validation showed satisfactory performance of the spectral library to estimate all nine traits (mean R2=0.688), with partial least-squares regression outperforming deep neural network models. Models calibrated solely using the spectral library showed degraded performance on external datasets (mean R2=0.159 for camelina, 0.337 for soybean). Models improved significantly when a small portion of external samples (n=20) was added to the library via extra-weighted spiking (mean R2=0.574 for camelina, 0.536 for soybean). The leaf-level spectral library greatly benefits plant physiological and biochemical phenotyping, whilst extra-weight spiking improves model transferability and extends its utility.

     
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  4. The root-associated microbiome (rhizobiome) affects plant health, stress tolerance, and nutrient use efficiency. However, it remains unclear to what extent the composition of the rhizobiome is governed by intraspecific variation in host plant genetics in the field and the degree to which host plant selection can reshape the composition of the rhizobiome. Here, we quantify the rhizosphere microbial communities associated with a replicated diversity panel of 230 maize ( Zea mays L .) genotypes grown in agronomically relevant conditions under high N (+N) and low N (-N) treatments. We analyze the maize rhizobiome in terms of 150 abundant and consistently reproducible microbial groups and we show that the abundance of many root-associated microbes is explainable by natural genetic variation in the host plant, with a greater proportion of microbial variance attributable to plant genetic variation in -N conditions. Population genetic approaches identify signatures of purifying selection in the maize genome associated with the abundance of several groups of microbes in the maize rhizobiome. Genome-wide association study was conducted using the abundance of microbial groups as rhizobiome traits, and n=622 plant loci were identified that are linked to the abundance of n=104 microbial groups in the maize rhizosphere. In 62/104 cases, which is more than expected by chance, the abundance of these same microbial groups was correlated with variation in plant vigor indicators derived from high throughput phenotyping of the same field experiment. We provide comprehensive datasets about the three-way interaction of host genetics, microbe abundance, and plant performance under two N treatments to facilitate targeted experiments toward harnessing the full potential of root-associated microbial symbionts in maize production. 
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  5. Liu, Shuang-Jiang (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Root-associated microbes are key players in plant health, disease resistance, and nitrogen (N) use efficiency. It remains largely unclear how the interplay of biological and environmental factors affects rhizobiome dynamics in agricultural systems. In this study, we quantified the composition of rhizosphere and bulk soil microbial communities associated with maize ( Zea mays L.) and soybean ( Glycine max L.) in a long-term crop rotation study under conventional fertilization and low-N regimes. Over two growing seasons, we evaluated the effects of environmental conditions and several treatment factors on the abundance of rhizosphere- and soil-colonizing microbial taxa. Time of sampling, host plant species, and N fertilization had major effects on microbiomes, while no effect of crop rotation was observed. Using variance partitioning as well as 16S sequence information, we further defined a set of 82 microbial genera and functional taxonomic groups at the subgenus level that show distinct responses to treatment factors. We identified taxa that are highly specific to either maize or soybean rhizospheres, as well as taxa that are sensitive to N fertilization in plant rhizospheres and bulk soil. This study provides insights to harness the full potential of soil microbes in maize and soybean agricultural systems through plant breeding and field management. IMPORTANCE Plant roots are colonized by large numbers of microbes, some of which may help the plant acquire nutrients and fight diseases. Our study contributes to a better understanding of root-colonizing microbes in the widespread and economically important maize-soybean crop rotation system. The long-term goal of this research is to optimize crop plant varieties and field management to create the best possible conditions for beneficial plant-microbe interactions to occur. These beneficial microbes may be harnessed to sustainably reduce dependency on pesticides and industrial fertilizer. We identify groups of microbes specific to the maize or to the soybean host and microbes that are sensitive to nitrogen fertilization. These microbes represent candidates that may be influenced through plant breeding or field management, and future research will be directed toward elucidating their roles in plant health and nitrogen usage. 
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  6. Walsh, Bruce (Ed.)
    Inbreeding depression is the reduction in fitness and vigor resulting from mating of close relatives observed in many plant and animal species. The extent to which the genetic load of mutations contributing to inbreeding depression is due to large-effect mutations versus variants with very small individual effects is unknown and may be affected by population history. We compared the effects of outcrossing and self-fertilization on 18 traits in a landrace population of maize, which underwent a population bottleneck during domestication, and a neighboring population of its wild relative teosinte. Inbreeding depression was greater in maize than teosinte for 15 of 18 traits, congruent with the greater segregating genetic load in the maize population that we predicted from sequence data. Parental breeding values were highly consistent between outcross and selfed offspring, indicating that additive effects determine most of the genetic value even in the presence of strong inbreeding depression. We developed a novel linkage scan to identify quantitative trait loci (QTL) representing large-effect rare variants carried by only a single parent, which were more important in teosinte than maize. Teosinte also carried more putative juvenile-acting lethal variants identified by segregation distortion. These results suggest a mixture of mostly polygenic, small-effect partially recessive effects in linkage disequilibrium underlying inbreeding depression, with an additional contribution from rare larger-effect variants that was more important in teosinte but depleted in maize following the domestication bottleneck. Purging associated with the maize domestication bottleneck may have selected against some large effect variants, but polygenic load is harder to purge and overall segregating mutational burden increased in maize compared to teosinte. 
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  7. This study describes the evaluation of a range of approaches to semantic segmentation of hyperspectral images of sorghum plants, classifying each pixel as either nonplant or belonging to one of the three organ types (leaf, stalk, panicle). While many current methods for segmentation focus on separating plant pixels from background, organ-specific segmentation makes it feasible to measure a wider range of plant properties. Manually scored training data for a set of hyperspectral images collected from a sorghum association population was used to train and evaluate a set of supervised classification models. Many algorithms show acceptable accuracy for this classification task. Algorithms trained on sorghum data are able to accurately classify maize leaves and stalks, but fail to accurately classify maize reproductive organs which are not directly equivalent to sorghum panicles. Trait measurements extracted from semantic segmentation of sorghum organs can be used to identify both genes known to be controlling variation in a previously measured phenotypes (e.g., panicle size and plant height) as well as identify signals for genes controlling traits not previously quantified in this population (e.g., stalk/leaf ratio). Organ level semantic segmentation provides opportunities to identify genes controlling variation in a wide range of morphological phenotypes in sorghum, maize, and other related grain crops. 
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