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University of Helsinki (2009)

Genetic Diversity and Adaptation of Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera L.)

Elshibli, Sakina

Titre : Genetic Diversity and Adaptation of Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera L.)

Auteur : Elshibli, Sakina

Université de soutenance : University of Helsinki,

Grade : Doctoral dissertation (article-based) 2009

Acquiring sufficient information on the genetic variation, genetic differentiation, and the ecological and genetic relationships among individuals and populations are essential for establishing guidelines on conservation and utilization of the genetic resources of a species, and more particularly when biotic and abiotic stresses are considered. The aim of this study was to assess the extent and pattern of genetic variation in date palm (Phoenix dactylifera L) cultivars ; the genetic diversity and structure in its populations occurring over geographical ranges ; the variation in economically and botanically important traits of it and the variation in its drought adaptive traits, in conservation and utilization context.
In this study, the genetic diversity and relationships among selected cultivars from Sudan and Morocco were assessed using microsatellite markers. Microsatellite markers were also used to investigate the genetic diversity within and among populations collected from different geographic locations in Sudan. In a separate investigation, fruits of cultivars selected from Sudan, involved morphological and chemical characterization, and morphological and DNA polymorphism of the mother trees were also investigated. Morphological and photosynthetic adjustments to water stress were studied in the five most important date palm cultivars in Sudan, namely, Gondaila, Barakawi, Bitamoda, Khateeb and Laggai ; and the mechanism enhancing photosynthetic gas exchange in date palm under water stress was also investigated.
Results showed a significant (p < 0.001, t-test) differentiation between Sudan and Morocco groups of cultivars. However, the major feature of all tested cultivars was the complete lack of clustering and the absence of cultivars representing specific clones. The results indicated high genetic as well as compositional and morphological diversity among cultivars ; while, compositional and morphological traits were found to be characteristic features that strongly differentiate cultivars as well as phenotypes. High genetic diversity was observed also in different populations. Slight but significant (p < 0.01, AMOVA) divergence was observed for soft and dry types ; however, the genetic divergence among populations was relatively weak. The results showed a complex genetic relationships between some of the tested populations especially when isolation by distance was considered. The results of the study also revealed that date palm cultivars and phenotypes possess specific direct or interaction effects due to water availability on a range of morphological and physiological traits. Soft and dry phenotypes responded differently to different levels of water stress, while the dry phenotype was more sensitive and conservative. The results indicated that date palm has high fixation capacity to photosynthetic CO2 supply with interaction effect to water availability, which can be considered as advantageous when coping with stresses that may arise with climate change.
In conclusion, although a large amount of diversity exists among date palm germplasm, the findings in this study show that the role of biological nature of the tree, isolation by distance and environmental effects on structuring date palm genome was highly influenced by human impacts. Identity of date palm cultivars as developed and manipulated by date palm growers, in the absence of scientific breeding programmes, may continue to mainly depend on tree morphology and fruit characters. The pattern of genetic differentiation may cover specific morphological and physiological traits that contribute to adaptive mechanisms in each phenotype. These traits can be considered for further studies related to drought adaptation in date palm.

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