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Genome. 2011 Apr;54(4):301-15. doi: 10.1139/g10-122.

Chestnut cultivar diversification process in the Iberian Peninsula, Canary Islands, and Azores.

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Escola Polit├ęcnica Superior, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, Campus de Lugo, 27002 Lugo, Spain.


This is a large-scale molecular study based on simple sequence repeat (SSR) loci of the diversification process in chestnut cultivars from Portugal and Spain, from the northern Iberian Peninsula to the Canary Islands and the Azores. A total of 593 grafted chestnut trees (Castanea sativa Mill.) were analysed with 10 SSRs: 292 from Portugal and 301 from Spain. Some of the trees studied were more than 300 years old. Accessions were analysed using a model-based Bayesian procedure to assess the geographical structure and to assign individuals to reconstructed populations based on the SSR genotypes. We found 356 different genotypes with a mean value of clonality of 33% owing to grafting. Mutations accounted for 6%, with hybridization being the main diversification process that can explain the great diversity found. Ten main cultivar groups were detected: four in northern Spain, five in the centre of the Iberian Peninsula, and one in southern Spain related to the centre of the Iberian Peninsula. This work demonstrated that cultivar origin and the diversification process was a combination of clonal propagation of selected seedlings, hybridization, and mutations, which allowed high levels of diversity to be maintained with respect to selected clones for fruit production. Furthermore, seedlings and graft sticks facilitated the transport to new destinations in the colonization process, transporting sometimes more than 3000 km if we consider the Azores and the Canary Islands.

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