Genetic relationships among subspecies of Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp. based on allozyme variation
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The cowpea [Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.] is a morphologically and genetically variable species composed of wild perennial, wild annual, and cultivated forms that are mainly used for edible seeds and pods. In this study, genetic variation in 199 germplasm accessions of wild and cultivated cowpea was evaluated using an allozyme analysis. The results from this survey showed that wild cowpea exhibits genetic variation perfectly fitted with the existing morphological classification. The cowpea gene-pool is characterized by its unusually large size. It encompasses taxa (ranked as subspecies) that could be considered as different species considering the high genetic distances observed between accessions belonging to different taxa. These subspecies can be classified into three groups characterized by their breeding systems: perennial outcrossers, perennial out-inbreds, and inbred annuals. Allozyme data confirm this grouping. Perennial outcrossers look primitive and are more remote from each other and from perennial out-inbreds. Within this large gene-pool, mainly made of perennial taxa, cultivated cowpeas (ssp. unguiculata var. unguiculata) form a genetically coherent group and are closely related to annual cowpeas (ssp. unguiculata var. spontanea) which may include the most likely progenitor of cultivated cowpeas.
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