Identification of successive flowering phases highlights a new genetic control of the flowering pattern in strawberry

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The genetic control of the switch between seasonal and perpetual flowering has been deciphered in various perennial species. However, little is known about the genetic control of the dynamics of perpetual flowering, which changes abruptly at well-defined time instants during the growing season. Here, we characterize the perpetual flowering pattern and identify new genetic controls of this pattern in the cultivated strawberry. Twenty-one perpetual flowering strawberry genotypes were phenotyped at the macroscopic scale for their course of emergence of inflorescences and stolons during the growing season. A longitudinal analysis based on the segmentation of flowering rate profiles using multiple change-point models was conducted. The flowering pattern of perpetual flowering genotypes takes the form of three or four successive phases: an autumn-initiated flowering phase, a flowering pause, and a single stationary perpetual flowering phase or two perpetual flowering phases, the second one being more intense. The genetic control of flowering was analysed by quantitative trait locus mapping of flowering traits based on these flowering phases. We showed that the occurrence of a fourth phase of intense flowering is controlled by a newly identified locus, different from the locus FaPFRU, controlling the switch between seasonal and perpetual flowering behaviour. The role of this locus was validated by the analysis of data obtained previously during six consecutive years.

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