There has been a long standing interest in the relationship between genetic and phenotypic variation in natural populations, in order to understand the genetic basis of adaptation and to discover natural alleles to improve crops. Here we review recent developments in mapping approaches that have significantly improved our ability to identify causal polymorphism explaining natural variation in ecological and evolutionarily relevant traits. However, challenges in interpreting these discoveries remain. In particular, we need more detailed transcriptomic, epigenomic, and gene network data to help understand the mechanisms behind identified associations. Also, more studies need to be performed under field conditions or using experimental evolution to determine whether polymorphisms identified in the lab are relevant for adaptation and improvement under natural conditions.