Genetic monitoring of traditional chestnut orchards reveals a complex genetic structure
This study presents the results of a systematic genetic analysis between wild and cultivated chestnuts in an orchard in southern Spain, highlighting a complex structure and considerable genetic diversity and opening the possibility to generalize this approach to other Mediterranean orchards.
Tree genetic monitoring offers a good opportunity to evaluate populations and preserve their long-term adaptive evolutionary potential. Chestnut is a multipurpose species of high economic importance in the Mediterranean basin and considered an example of integration between natural and man-driven distribution of diversity under changing environmental and historical conditions. Due to its multipurpose characteristics, man influenced its populations (grafting/sexual propagation) and a complex genetic structure is expected.
We monitored the trees of a chestnut orchard for studying the genetic diversity and relationship in grafts and rootstocks and detecting possible response in its adaptive potential.
For this, morphological traits and genomic and genic microsatellite markers were used.
Chestnut trees showed considerable genetic structure, with high level of clonality in the varieties and genetic diversity in rootstocks. The similarity analysis revealed a different clustering pattern for varieties, detecting higher variability for genomic microsatellite markers. Rootstocks harboured a high level of diversity, not previously described, and not contained in the genetic information from populations and varieties from the same region.
Results contribute to understanding the human role in the management of chestnut and demonstrate that rootstocks constitute an unexploited reservoir of variation valuable for conservation strategies against stress factors and future and unpredictable environmental changes.