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Genetic Diversity Of Twelve Switchgrass Populations Using Molecular And Morphological Markers

Laura M. Cortese, J. Honig, Chris Miller, S. Bonos
Published 2010 · Biology

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Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) is a warm season, C4 perennial grass native to most of North America with numerous applications, including use as a bioenergy feedstock species. To date, no studies on genetic diversity in switchgrass have been conducted that use both molecular and morphological markers. The objectives of this study were to assess genetic diversity and determine differences among and between 12 switchgrass populations grown in New Jersey by examining both morphological and molecular characteristics, and to determine whether morphological, molecular, and/or combined data sets can detect ecotype and/or geographical differences at the population level. Twelve plants from each population were characterized with 16 switchgrass expressed sequence tag-simple sequence repeat markers (EST-SSRs) and seven morphological characters. Data was analyzed using GenAlEx and Unweighted Pair-Group Method of Averages (UPGMA) cluster analysis. Most (64%) of the molecular variation in switchgrass populations exists among individuals within populations, with lesser amounts between populations (36%). Upland and lowland populations were distinguished in all three data sets. Some eastern US and midwestern US populations were distinct in all three data sets. Similarities were observed between all three data sets indicating molecular markers may be useful for identifying morphological differences or other adaptive traits. The combined data set was the most useful in differentiating populations based on geography and found separation between midwestern and eastern upland populations. The results indicate that the combination of morphological and molecular markers may be useful in future applications such as genetic diversity studies, plant variety protection, cultivar identification, and/or identifying geographic origin.
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