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Molecular Characterization of Tall Coconut (Cocos Nucifera L.) Populations in the Bicol Region, Philippines, Using SSR Markers
Jonabel L. Huavas, Melissa M. Melitante, Dennyse C. Diaz, Cristeta A. Cueto
ABSTRACT Coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) populations previously characterized using morpho-agronomic descriptors were analyzed using simple sequence repeats (SSR) markers. Using 22 SSR primer pairs, 170 Tall coconut palms from 17 sampling populations in the Bicol region were characterized. The markers produced a total of 77 alleles, with an average of 3.50 alleles per locus. The observed and expected heterozygosity were 0.37 and 0.41, respectively. The dendrogram generated based on Nei’s 1983 similarity coefficient and UPGMA method resulted in two main clusters. The first was “MAL 7” from Guinobatan, Albay and the second was composed of Tall palms from Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, and Sorsogon. The Tall coconut populations exhibited a low level of variability which could be due to the confined geographic area and limited differences in the cultural environment where the palms are being cultivated. The observed structure is likely due to gene flow that is strongly influenced by human selection, domestication, and the cross-pollinated nature of Tall coconuts. Molecular characterization provided a more in-depth diversity assessment of the Tall coconut populations that will be useful in the marker-aided selection of these populations for future conservation, utilization in coconut breeding, and rehabilitation of coconut farms.