Genetic structure and diversity of wild sorghum populations (Sorghum spp.) from different eco-geographical regions of Kenya
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Wild sorghums are extremely diverse phenotypically, genetically and geographically. However, there is an apparent lack of knowledge on the genetic structure and diversity of wild sorghum populations within and between various eco-geographical regions. This is a major obstacle to both their effective conservation and potential use in breeding programs. The objective of this study was to assess the genetic diversity and structure of wild sorghum populations across a range of eco-geographical conditions in Kenya. Sixty-two wild sorghum populations collected from the 4 main sorghum growing regions in Kenya were genotyped using 18 simple sequence repeat markers. The study showed that wild sorghum is highly variable with the Coast region displaying the highest diversity. Analysis of molecular variance showed a significant variance component within and among wild sorghum populations within regions. The genetic structure of wild sorghum populations indicated that gene flow is not restricted to populations within the same geographic region. A weak regional differentiation was found among populations, reflecting human intervention in shaping wild sorghum genetic structure through seed-mediated gene flow. The sympatric occurrence of wild and cultivated sorghums coupled with extensive seed-mediated gene flow, suggests a potential crop-to-wild gene flow and vice versa across the regions. Wild sorghum displayed a mixed mating system. The wide range of estimated outcrossing rates indicate that some environmental conditions may exist where self-fertilisation is favoured while others cross-pollination is more advantageous.