Scientists analyze Mediterranean durum genetics

by Laura Lloyd
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Team from Spain completes first genetic, phenotypic and geographic adaptation study.
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GRANADA, SPAIN — A team of Spanish scientists has completed the first genetic, phenotypic and geographic adaptation study of durum wheat grown in 21 Mediterranean countries, including both local varieties and modern cultivars in their analysis.

Among the study’s goals was to establish a statistical relationship between certain genetic variables and the phenotypic characteristics they determine. A phenotype is defined as the appearance of an organism resulting from the interaction of genotype and environment. The phenotypic traits under study included the different varieties of durum wheat’s flowering time, biomass, drought resistance, foliar architecture, photosynthesis, protein, yield and yield components.

The study sought to establish which genetic characteristics were decisive in the expression of particular phenotypic traits that indicated both genetic improvement and adaptation of crops in environmental conditions associated with global climate change.

The study divided durum wheat into five genetic subpopulations — one composed only of modern cultivars and another four closely related to their geographic origins in the eastern Mediterranean, eastern Balkans and Turkey, Western Balkans and Egypt and the Western Mediterranean.

Durum wheat grown in the Mediterranean ecosystem, where weather conditions are moderately dry and sunny, is mostly used to make pasta and semolina. Domesticated thousands of years ago in the Fertile Crescent, durum spread widely, developing diverse landraces, or crop cultivars developed through traditional farming practices over a lengthy period of time or lacking influence from modern agricultural practices, the study authors said.  
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