Theoretical and Applied Genetics

, Volume 110, Issue 5, pp 859–864 | Cite as

Wheat genetic diversity trends during domestication and breeding

  • J. C. Reif
  • P. Zhang
  • S. Dreisigacker
  • M. L. Warburton
  • M. van Ginkel
  • D. Hoisington
  • M. Bohn
  • A. E. Melchinger
Original Paper


It has been claimed that plant breeding reduces genetic diversity in elite germplasm which could seriously jeopardize the continued ability to improve crops. The main objective of this study was to examine the loss of genetic diversity in spring bread wheat during (1) its domestication, (2) the change from traditional landrace cultivars (LCs) to modern breeding varieties, and (3) 50 years of international breeding. We studied 253 CIMMYT or CIMMYT-related modern wheat cultivars, LCs, and Triticum tauschii accessions, the D-genome donor of wheat, with 90 simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers dispersed across the wheat genome. A loss of genetic diversity was observed from T. tauschii to the LCs, and from the LCs to the elite breeding germplasm. Wheat’s genetic diversity was narrowed from 1950 to 1989, but was enhanced from 1990 to 1997. Our results indicate that breeders averted the narrowing of the wheat germplasm base and subsequently increased the genetic diversity through the introgression of novel materials. The LCs and T. tauschii contain numerous unique alleles that were absent in modern spring bread wheat cultivars. Consequently, both the LCs and T. tauschii represent useful sources for broadening the genetic base of elite wheat breeding germplasm.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. C. Reif
    • 1
  • P. Zhang
    • 2
  • S. Dreisigacker
    • 1
  • M. L. Warburton
    • 2
  • M. van Ginkel
    • 2
  • D. Hoisington
    • 2
  • M. Bohn
    • 3
  • A. E. Melchinger
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Plant Breeding, Seed Science, and Population GeneticsUniversity of HohenheimStuttgartGermany
  2. 2.International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)MexicoMexico
  3. 3.University of IllinoisUrbanaUSA

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