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Genetic diversity of Finnish home garden rhubarbs (Rheum spp.) assessed by simple sequence repeat markers


Rhubarb samples were collected from home gardens all around Finland to study their genetic diversity. Altogether, the study contained 647 samples, of which 539 were from home gardens. In addition, reference cultivars and samples from the Finnish national collection of rhubarb genetic resources located in the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) were included. Six SSRs, which amplified a total of 80 alleles, were used to calculate genetic distances between samples, and a dendrogram was built. The most common cultivar among the rhubarbs from Finnish home gardens (57%) was identical to ‘Queen Victoria’ in the Luke collection. Thirty-eight samples (7%) from citizens were identical to ‘The Sutton’ and ‘Strawberry’, which on the other hand were identical to each other. We detected misidentifications of rhubarb cultivars in our study. Under the same cultivar name there might be different genotypes, for example ‘Victoria’ was very heterogeneous. On the other hand, cultivars with different names may have the same genotype e.g. ‘Strawberry’ and ‘The Sutton’. In addition to providing information about genetic variability of rhubarbs in home gardens, the results of the study were used to update the Finnish national collection of rhubarb genetic resources: to remove duplicates, and to replace accessions of unknown origin with new polymorphic ones with more accurate information of their history. As far as we know, this is the first study where rhubarb samples have been collected widely from home gardens and evaluated with DNA markers.

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The authors wish to thank Marja-Riitta Arajärvi, Sirpa Moisander and Anneli Virta for excellent technical assistance. Finnish citizens and nurseries, as well as Morten Rasmussen (Norwegian Genetic Resource Centre), Lars Jacobsen (Aarhus University), Barbara Hellier (USDA-ARS Western Regional Plant Introduction Station), and the Finnish Plant Genetic Resources Programme are thanked for providing us the plant material. Pentti Alanko and Leena Lindén (University of Helsinki) are thanked for giving old plant catalogues and collecting information from the catalogues. The assistance of Maarit Heinonen for preparing the rhubarb call, Teija Tenhola-Roininen for selecting samples from the registered plants, and the coordinator of the Finnish Plant Genetic Resources Programme, Elina Kiviharju, for giving valuable comments to the manuscript is greatly appreciated. The Ministry of Education and Culture, Maiju ja Yrjö Rikalan Puutarhasäätiö, and Finnish Plant Genetic Resources Programme are acknowledged for the financial support of the study.

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Correspondence to Pirjo Tanhuanpää.

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Online Resource 1

The dendrogram of 647 rhubarb samples (with the names of the municipalities where they were grown, or cultivar names), of which 539 were collected from Finnish home gardens. Reference cultivars are marked with blue, samples from the Finnish national collection of rhubarb genetic resources with red, and samples from Finnish nurseries with green. Confidence levels greater or equal to 50% from bootstrap analysis for 1000 replicates are indicated (PDF 255 kb)

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Tanhuanpää, P., Suojala-Ahlfors, T. & Hartikainen, M. Genetic diversity of Finnish home garden rhubarbs (Rheum spp.) assessed by simple sequence repeat markers. Genet Resour Crop Evol 66, 17–25 (2019).

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  • Rhubarb
  • Genetic diversity
  • Simple sequence repeat (SSR)
  • Cultivar identity