Assessment of the genetic diversity of native apple cultivars in the south eastern ranges of the Alps with three selected microsatellite loci
AbstractThe regional diversity of native apple cultivars in parts of the south eastern ranges of the Alps (Styria, Austria and northern parts of Slovenia) was examined. As the application of conventional pomological methods to characterise cultivars may sometimes be ambiguous, we regard the application of molecular methods to be essential for thorough cultivar diversity assessments. Five hundred samples were collected from different climatic and edaphic regions and analysed using three selected microsatellite loci. With this approach we were able to distinguish 190 named varieties at which we chose 50 as reference varieties. The high diversity of native races suggests that the Southern alpine ranges represent a „hot spot“ of cultivar diversity. This can be attributed to historical effects and the local persistence of a traditional management practice with orchards of widely spaced and old-grown trees of various races. Because these „old“ native races could harbour interesting genetic traits (pathogen resistance, taste, etc.) that will be important in future food production, measures for their conservation are overdue. Our approach will not only show which local cultivars/genotypes require rapid action for their protection, but due to the international nature of our project we can also show which old and untraceable local names in different languages correspond with the same cultivars.
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