Published online by Cambridge University Press: 08 March 2007
Grasspea (Lathyrus sativus L.) is an annual, herbaceous, drought-resistant legume and staple crop in Asian and African countries. Little is known about the nature and the amount of genetic diversity present in existing grasspea seed collections, yet this information is pivotal for future breeding programmes, such as those striving to reduce high neurotoxin levels present in seeds. Here we report on the level of genetic diversity within a world-wide collection of L. sativus, determined by isozymatic analysis. Although grasspea is generally considered a predominantly self-pollinating species, we found that the population genetic structure of these accessions showed a considerable outcrossing rate of 36%. The identification of a mixed mating system in L. sativus has significant implications for collecting and multiplying genetic resources for conservation and for future breeding purposes. In addition, we determined the genetic closeness of grasspea accessions from different geographical regions around the world. While we noticed an allelic richness in this species that was conserved across the regions, we did not find any evidence of high genetic identity between accessions, even when originating from the same geographical location. Instead, we found that greater genetic variability existed at the intra-regional level than at the inter-regional level.