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Theor Appl Genet. 2005 Nov;111(7):1420-9. Epub 2005 Sep 6.

Genetic diversity among alfalfa (Medicago sativa) cultivars coming from a breeding program, using SSR markers.

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Jouffray-Drillaud, 86600 Lusignan, France.


Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) is an autotetraploid, allogamous and heterozygous species whose cultivars are synthetic populations. The breeders apply selection pressure for some agronomic traits within a breeding pool to increase the frequency of favorable individuals. The objective of this study was to investigate the differentiation level among seven cultivars originating from one breeding program, and between these cultivars and the breeding pool, with eight SSR markers. These highly polymorphic and codominant markers, together with recent population genetic statistics extended to autotetraploids, offer tools to analyse genetic diversity in alfalfa. The number of alleles per locus varied between 3 and 24. All loci were at a panmictic equilibrium in the cultivars, except one, probably because of null alleles. With seven SSR loci, each cultivar was at panmictic equilibrium. The mean gene diversity was high, ranging from 0.665 to 0.717 in the cultivars. The parameter F(ST) indicated a low but significant diversity among cultivars. Among 21 pairs of cultivars, 15 were significantly different. The breeding pool also had a high diversity, and was significantly different from each cultivar except the most recent one. Considering the characteristics of the breeding program and the mode of cultivar elaboration, we found that they were unable to generate a large variety differentiation. Estimation of population genetics parameters at SSR loci can be applied for assessing the differences between cultivars or populations, either for variety distinction or the management of genetic resources.

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