Diversity in the trifoliate orange taxon reveals two main genetic groups marked by specific morphological traits and water deficit tolerance properties
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Trifoliate orange (Poncirus trifoliata (L.) Raf.) is a very useful taxon for the citrus industry since this rootstock is immune to the Citrus Tristeza virus and confers cold tolerance. Numerous trifoliate orange varieties exist but little is known regarding their behavioural variability when subjected to abiotic constraints. The diversity of 74 P. trifoliata accessions maintained in the INRA-CIRAD Citrus Germplasm Collection was investigated using simple sequence repeat markers. Two major genetic groups were clearly identified as a few homonyms, intergroup or intra-group hybrids and doubled-chromosome tetraploid forms. The Group 1 phenotype was characterized by larger flowers and leaves and smaller seeds than Group 2. Tetraploid accessions showed larger leaves and heavier seeds than all other diploid accessions, regardless of genetic classification. Eight genotypes belonging to both genetic groups, as well as two hybrids between the two groups, were selected to investigate their water deficit tolerance. Stress was applied by withdrawing irrigation for 4 weeks. Physiological parameters such as leaf stomatal conductance, quantum yield of photosystem II electron transport, soil water potential, leaf osmotic potential and transpiration rate were estimated. Some varieties, such as Rubidoux 0101033, were clearly more tolerant to water deficit than others, such as Pomeroy 0101040 and Pomeroy 0110081. Interestingly, accessions that had the highest soil water potential and were the least affected by stress belonged to genetic Group 2. Conversely, trifoliate oranges of genetic Group 1 were the least tolerant.