Variation of morphological and agronomical traits, andprotein composition in durum wheat germplasm from easternEurope
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Broadening the genetic base upon which the breeding of durumwheat relies is a growing concern in Italy. Exotic materials canrepresent valuable sources of adaptive features and they have beenrepeatedly exploited in the past for direct utilisation and/orintrogression by crossing into existing germplasm. An increase of theavailable genetic variation for the breeding also appearsenvisageable in terms of end-product quality. This studyassessed the variation in germplasm from eastern Europe countries,which could represent novel gene sources for durum wheat improvementin Italy, and verified the presence of variants of potential interestfor agronomical and quality characteristics to be possibly exploitedfor breeding. Fifty-nine landraces from the former USSR and 91from Bulgaria were grown in Sicily and evaluated for agronomicaltraits, spike morphological characteristics (possibly bearingsome taxonomic relevance), and protein composition at three lociencoding for glutenin subunits responsible of flour quality features.The results suggested a similar overall diversity in the two groupsconsidering either the variance of the agronomical characters, or thediversity index (H′) across morphological traits, orthe frequency distribution of electrophoretic patterns of gluteninsubunits encoded at three loci. Genotypes of potential usefulness asdonors of positive agronomical or quality attributes were found inboth germplasm groups, although the agronomical characteristics ofthe exotic genotypes rarely matched those required by the breeding inthe target area. Conversely, the genetic variation found at the threeloci involved in the composition of glutenin subunits appeared ofgreater relevance for the breeding in Italy.
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