Tanto Hadado, Tesema and Rau, Domenico and Bitocchi, Elena and Papa, Roberto (2010) Adaptation and diversity along an altitudinal gradient in Ethiopian barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) landraces revealed by molecular analysis. BMC Plant Biology, Vol. 10 , p. 1-20. eISSN 1471-2229. Article.
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Among the cereal crops, barley is the species with the greatest adaptability to a wide range of environments. To determine the level and structure of genetic diversity in barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) landraces from the central highlands of Ethiopia, we have examined the molecular variation at seven nuclear microsatellite loci.
A total of 106 landrace populations were sampled in the two growing seasons (Meher and Belg; the long and short rainy seasons, respectively), across three districts (Ankober, Mojanawadera and Tarmaber), and within each district along an altitudinal gradient (from 1,798 to 3,324 m a.s.l). Overall, although significant, the divergence (e.g. FST) is very low between seasons and geographical districts, while it is high between different classes of altitude. Selection for adaptation to different altitudes appears to be the main factor that has determined the observed clinal variation, along with population-size effects.
Our data show that barley landraces from Ethiopia are constituted by highly variable local populations (farmer's fields) that have large within-population diversity. These landraces are also shown to be locally adapted, with the major driving force that has shaped their population structure being consistent with selection for adaptation along an altitudinal gradient. Overall, our study highlights the potential of such landraces as a source of useful alleles. Furthermore, these landraces also represent an ideal system to study the processes of adaptation and for the identification of genes and genomic regions that have adaptive roles in crop species.
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