Cowpea is an important crop for subsistence farmers in arid regions of Africa, Asia, and South America. Efforts to develop cultivars with improved productivity under drought conditions are constrained by lack of molecular markers associated with drought tolerance. Here, we report the mapping of 12 quantitative trait loci (QTL) associated with seedling drought tolerance and maturity in a cowpea recombinant inbred (RIL) population. One hundred and twenty-seven F8 RILs developed from a cross between IT93K503-1 and CB46 were screened with 62 EcoR1 and Mse1 primer combinations to generate 306 amplified fragment length polymorphisms for use in genetic linkage mapping. The same population was phenotyped for maintenance of stem greenness (stg) and recovery dry weight (rdw) after drought stress in six greenhouse experiments. In field experiments conducted over 3 years, visual ratings and dry weights were used to phenotype drought stress-induced premature senescence in the RIL population. Kruskall–Wallis and multiple-QTL model mapping analysis were used to identify QTL associated with drought response phenotypes. Observed QTL were highly reproducible between stg and rdw under greenhouse conditions. Field studies confirmed all ten drought-response QTL observed under greenhouse conditions. Regions harboring drought-related QTL were observed on linkage groups 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, and 10 accounting for between 4.7 and 24.2% of the phenotypic variance (R 2). Further, two QTL for maturity (R 2 = 14.4–28.9% and R 2 = 11.7–25.2%) mapped on linkage groups 7 and 8 separately from drought-related QTL. These results provide a platform for identification of genetic determinants of seedling drought tolerance in cowpea.
TAG Theoretical and Applied Genetics (2009) 118 (5) 849-863 [doi: 10.1007/s00122-008-0944-7]