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Genetic diversity of pomegranate germplasm collection from Spain determined by fruit, seed, leaf and flower characteristics

Genetic diversity of pomegranate germplasm collection from Spain determined by fruit, seed, leaf and flower characteristics

Peerj 4: E2214

Background. Miguel Hernandez University (Spain) created a germplasm bank of the varieties of pomegranate from different Southeastern Spain localities in order to preserve the crop's wide genetic diversity. Once this collection was established, the next step was to characterize the phenotype of these varieties to determine the phenotypic variability that existed among all the different pomegranate genotypes, and to understand the degree of polymorphism of the morphometric characteristics among varieties. Methods. Fifty-three pomegranate (Punica granatum L.) accessions were studied in order to determine their degree of polymorphism and to detect similarities in their genotypes. Thirty-one morphometric characteristics were measured in fruits, arils, seeds, leaves and flowers, as well as juice characteristics including content, pH, titratable acidity, total soluble solids and maturity index. ANOVA, principal component analysis, and cluster analysis showed that there was a considerable phenotypic diversity (and presumably genetic). Results. The cluster analysis produced a dendrogram with four main clusters. The dissimilarity level ranged from 1 to 25, indicating that there were varieties that were either very similar or very different from each other, with varieties from the same geographical areas being more closely related. Within each varietal group, different degrees of similarity were found, although there were no accessions that were identical. These results highlight the crop's great genetic diversity, which can be explained not only by their different geographical origins, but also to the fact that these are native plants that have not come from genetic improvement programs. The geographic origin could be, in the cases where no exchanges of plant material took place, a key criterion for cultivar clustering. Conclusions. As a result of the present study, we can conclude that among all the parameters analyzed, those related to fruit and seed size as well as the juice's acidity and pH had the highest power of discrimination, and were, therefore, the most useful for genetic characterization of this pomegranate germplasm banks. This is opposed to leaf and flower characteristics, which had a low power of discrimination. This germplasm bank, more specifically, was characterized by its considerable phenotypic (and presumably genetic) diversity among pomegranate accessions, with a greater proximity existing among the varieties from the same geographical area, suggesting that over time, there had not been an exchange of plant material among the different cultivation areas. In summary, knowledge on the extent of the genetic diversity of the collection is essential for germplasm management. In this study, these data may help in developing strategies for pomegranate germplasm management and may allow for more efficient use of this germplasm in future breeding programs for this species.

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Accession: 057930390

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PMID: 27547535

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