Population Structure and Diversity of East African taro [Colocasia esculenta (L.) Schott]
Macharia, Mercy Wairimu
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Taro [Colocasia esculenta (L) Schott] belongs to the family Araceae. Taro is mainly produced in Africa by small holder farmers and plays an important role in the livelihood of millions of poor people in less developed countries. There is need to develop breeding programmes that target development of resistant and improved taro varieties with high yield, yield stability across broad agro-ecological sites, resistance to TLB and good eating quality. The genetic diversity of East African taro has not been determined; consequently there is no breeding programme for this vital root crop. Tills work establishes the genetic diversity of taro in East Africa using DNA microsatellite markers. Plant material consisted of 98 taro cultivars obtained from East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda). DNA was extracted using the Cetyltrimethyl Ammonium Bromide method and six micro satellite primers previously shown to reveal high level of polymorphism in Polynesian taro were used to analyze 5 populations of Taro from three different regions of East Africa. Principal component analysis of SSR data indicated variation but did not show any geographical structure. Population diversity estimates was high for accessions sourced from Lake Victoria basin. Analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA) revealed most variation among individuals within population. Cluster analysis indicates that relatedness is not based on geographical proximity alone. It is envisaged that the result of this study will assist in establishing a regional collection that will be conserved and ensure a broad genetic base for available varieties and enable development of improved varieties through breeding programmes, .