Evolution of a barley composite cross-derived population: an insight gained by molecular markers
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Many studies have highlighted the continuously increasing need for genetic diversity in the field; nonetheless, plant breeding is still predominantly generating uniform cultivars. Evolutionary plant breeding offers the possibility of reconciling agro-biodiversity, high yields and adaptation to climate change. However, the diversity that can be conserved in heterogeneous populations, its evolution and the potential of 'evolutionary breeding' in the actual scenario of climate change is still a matter of debate. In the present study, a total of 147 barley individuals, 56 from seven parental populations (PPs) and 91 from the composite cross-derived population (CCP) resulting from their inter-crossing were genotyped at 22 Simple Sequence Repeat (SSR) loci with the objective of obtaining insights into how genetic diversity evolved in the field during 13 years of multiplication. A total of 92 different alleles were detected in the PP and 100 in the CCP. Results showed that the composite individuals are grouped into five major clusters differing for both the number of individuals and the relative level of genetic diversity. The mean values of the most common descriptors of genetic diversity were not significantly different between the parental and the composite populations. However, analysis of molecular variance showed some degree of differentiation between the two populations suggesting that evolution occurred during the years of multiplication and selection effects were detected for some loci. The SSR loci detected as putatively under selection in the present study have already been reported as co-localized with quantitative trait loci for adaptedness traits or tagging genes related to abiotic stress response. According to the current results, evolving crop populations, which have the capability of adapting to the conditions under which they are grown, can be useful in conserving genetic diversity and as sources of genes for breeding purposes in particular in the actual scenario of climate change.
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