Genetic diversity reduction in improved durum wheat cultivars of Morocco as revealed by microsatellite markers
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It has been argued that genetic diversity in crop varieties has been on the decline in recent times due to plant breeding. This can have serious consequences for both the genetic vulnerability of crops and their plasticity when responding to changes in production environments. It is, therefore, vital for plant breeding programs to maintain sufficient diversity in the cultivars deployed for multi-period cultivation. In this study, to understand the temporal genetic diversity in durum wheat, 21 improved durum wheat cultivars released in Morocco, since 1956 and five exotic cultivars currently used in crossing programs were analyzed using 13 micro- satellite markers. The analysis revealed a total of 44 alleles and average genetic diversity of 0.485 with genetic distances ranging from 0.077 to 0.846 at 13 microsatellite loci in Moroccan durum wheat cultivars. All the durum cultivars of Morocco could be distinguished using the 13 microsatellite markers. The total number of alleles and unique alleles were highest in cultivars developed before 1990, decreasing in cultivars developed during the 1990s and 2000s, indicating that recent durum breeding efforts have reduced allelic richness in recent cultivars. Thus, deployment of exotic durum wheat lines in breeding programs could enhance genetic diversity in durum wheat cultivars.