A large recombinant inbred population of soybean has been characterized for 220 restriction fragment-length polymorphism (RFLP) markers. Values for agronomic traits also have been measured. Quantitative trait loci (QTL) for height, yield, and maturity were located by their linkage to RFLP markers. QTL controlling large amounts of trait variation were analyzed for the dependence of trait variation on particular alleles at a second locus by comparing cumulative distributions of the trait for each genotype (four genotypes per pair of loci). Interesting pairs of loci were analyzed statistically with maximum likelihood and Monte Carlo comparison of additive and epistatic models. For each locus affecting height, variation was conditional upon the presence of a particular allele at a second unlinked locus that itself explained little or no trait variation. The results show that interactions between QTL are frequent and control large effects. Interactions distinguished between different QTL in a single linkage group and between QTL that affect different traits closely linked to one RFLP marker--i.e., distinguished between pleiotropy and closely linked genes. The implications for the evolution of inbreeding plants and for the construction of agronomic breeding strategies are discussed.
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