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Within- and Among-Cultivar Genetic Variation in Alfalfa: Forage Quality, Morphology, and Yield


This article in CS

  1. Vol. 40 No. 2, p. 365-369
    Received: Sept 14, 1998

    * Corresponding author(s): julier@lusignan.inra.fr
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  1. Bernadette Julier *a,
  2. Christian Huyghea and
  3. Christian Ecallea
  1.  aINRA, Unité de Génétique et d'Amélioration des Plantes Fourragères, 86600 Lusignan, France


Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) cultivars are synthetic populations formed from 8 to 200 parents and thus have a broad genetic base. Within-cultivar variation was compared with among-cultivar variation for energy value traits, morphological traits, and dry matter yield. Eleven cultivars, each represented by 15 clones of 7 to 20 genotypes, were evaluated in field plots simulating a dense canopy at INRA (National Institute of Agronomic Research), Lusignan in France. Six harvests spanning 3 yr were analyzed. Neutral detergent fiber (NDF), acid detergent fiber (ADF), acid detergent lignin (ADL), enzymatic digestibility, leaf-to-stem ratio (LSR), number of stems, stem height, and dry matter yield were measured. Within-cultivar variance accounted for 31 to 70% of the genetic variance for LSR and quality traits and 57 to 100% for morphological traits and dry matter yield. Large within-cultivar variation for yield-related traits could impart yield stability across environments, as a result of competition in alfalfa canopies. Phenotypic and genetic correlations were relatively low in each harvest for dry matter yield and NDF content, but high for NDF content and LSR. Within-cultivar variation could be exploited as an additional source of genetic variation in breeding programs for quality traits to achieve a higher genetic gain per breeding cycle.

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