Genetic variation for disease and nematode resistances and forage quality in perennial diploid and tetraploid lucerne populations (Medicago sativa L.)

Author(s): Julier B, Guy P, Castillo-Acuna C, Caubel G, Ecalle C, et al.


Twenty-five lucerne populations of the Medicago sativa complex, which were either diploid or tetraploid and wild or cultivated, were analysed for their resistance to four different fungal diseases and to stem nematode. Forage quality, including stem digestibility and saponin content, was also tested.

Populations varied in susceptibility to the diseases caused by Colletotrichum trifolii, Verticillium albo-atrum, Sclerotinia trifoliorum and Pseudopezizza medicaginis, and to the nematode Ditylenchus dipsaci. Except for Sclerotinia rot, sativa and falcata subspecies differed in susceptibility, but this grouping of populations did not account for the full range of variation among them. However, the resistance to P. medicaginis was much lower in the sativa than in the falcata populations.

Populations also varied significantly in stem fiber content and digestibility. Stem digestibility was negatively correlated to forage yield. Wild sativa and falcata populations had lower fiber content and higher digestibility than cultivated sativa populations. The medicagenic acid was the sapogenin responsible for the anti-nutritional effect of the lucerne measured by the yellow mealworm larvae Tenebrio molitor. The medicagenic acid content was lowest for the pure sativa populations, highest for the pure falcata populations, and intermediate for the French sativa varieties that have some traits originating from falcata germplasm. Some populations could be used in breeding programs to improve disease and nematode resistance, and forage quality.

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