561 Using AFLPs to Examine Genetic Diversity in Umbrella Fern

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  • 1 Dept. of Crop Science, Univ. of Sydney, NSW, Australia, 2006

Umbrella fern [Sticherus flabellatus (R. Br.) St John] is a successful Australian native foliage product. Currently, all umbrella fern sold on the market is bush-harvested. To meet the growing demand for this product on local and international markets, a commercially viable method for its production must be developed, with effective management of the germplasm resource in terms of conservation and exploitation. To manage this resource, breeders require a detailed knowledge of the amount and distribution of genetic variability within the species. Traditionally, plant breeders focus on a combination of agronomic and morphological traits (phenotype) to measure genetic diversity. In umbrella fern there are a limited number of morphological traits, and these are influenced by environmental factors and therefore do not reflect true genetic diversity. To overcome these problems, molecular techniques such as PCR-based DNA markers are used to complement traditional strategies for genotype assessment. DNA markers have the advantages of being independent of environmental effects, as well as being fast, cost-effective, reproducible, and largely accessible to the nonmolecular geneticist. Amplified fragment length polymorphisms (AFLPs) fulfil many of the desirable features of molecular markers, as well as requiring little knowledge of the genome to be investigated. AFLPs have been used widely in the analysis of breeding systems, ecogeographical variation, and genetic variation within and between natural populations. To date there are no published accounts of DNA molecular marker research on umbrella fern. A DNA extraction protocol has been developed for this species, and AFLP markers have been used to analyse genetic diversity within and between natural populations sampled in the Sydney Basin. A large number of polymorphic loci were revealed using 11 primer combinations. The genetic variation detected was partitioned between rather than within populations, suggesting that the mating system in Sticherus is primarily inbreeding. Data will be presented illustrating AFLPs as useful molecular markers for assessing genetic diversity within and between populations of umbrella fern and providing insight on the breeding system used by the species.

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