Assessments of genetic diversity within a world collection of cultivated hexaploid oat (Avena sativa L.) based on qualitative morphological characters
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A characterization of 10,105 accessions of hexaploid cultivated oat (Avena sativa L. sensu lato) from 85 countries of the Plant Gene Resources of Canada (PGRC) collection was conducted at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Eight environmentally stable morphological characters (panicle type, panicle erectness, panicle density, lemma colour, dorsal awn of lemma, ligula, major infraspecific group), differentiated into 18 character states, were used to define genetically distinct morphological groups. Comparisons of oat diversity from different countries, among the major infraspecific groups and among Canadian oat cultivars registered between 1886 and 2002 were possible. The 10,105 accessions represented 118 different morphological groups. The number of accessions in each morphological group was unevenly distributed with the 13 most frequent morphological groups including 90% of the accessions. The most frequent morphological groups in the PGRC collection were identical with the most frequent types of Canadian oat cultivars. The greatest richness of diversity was found in oat from countries with temperate climates and intensive oat breeding programmes. The oat accessions comprised 8,754 accessions of common hulled oat, 183 accessions of hull-less oat and 1,168 accessions of red oat. For red oat (A. byzantina C. Koch), West Asia was richest in diversity. The USA could be considered a secondary centre of diversity for red oat and Canada a secondary centre of diversity for hull-less oat. Morphological diversity of oat cultivars released in Canada increased during the twentieth century. The morphological groups were related to formal taxonomical infraspecific classifications of A. sativa. Applications of the concept of defining morphological groups for phenotyping a large germplasm collection are demonstrated discussed.