Patterns of genetic and eco-geographical diversity in Spanish barleys
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The pool of Western Mediterranean landraces has been under-utilised for barley breeding so far. The objectives of this study were to assess genetic diversity in a core collection of inbred lines derived from Spanish barley landraces to establish its relationship to barleys from other origins, and to correlate the distribution of diversity with geographical and climatic factors. To this end, 64 SSR were used to evaluate the polymorphism among 225 barley (Hordeum vulgare ssp. vulgare) genotypes, comprising two-row and six-row types. These included 159 landraces from the Spanish barley core collection (SBCC) plus 66 cultivars, mainly from European countries, as a reference set. Out of the 669 alleles generated, a large proportion of them were unique to the six-row Spanish barleys. An analysis of molecular variance revealed a clear genetic divergence between the six-row Spanish barleys and the reference cultivars, whereas this was not evident for the two-row barleys. A model-based clustering analysis identified an underlying population structure, consisting of four main populations for the whole genotype set, and suggested further possible subdivision within two of these populations. Most of the six-row Spanish landraces clustered into two groups that corresponded to geographic regions with contrasting environmental conditions. The existence of wide genetic diversity in Spanish germplasm, possibly related to adaptation to a broad range of environmental conditions, and its divergence from current European cultivars confirm its potential as a new resource for barley breeders, and make the SBCC a valuable tool for the study of adaptation in barley.