Research Article

Apomixis and cassava

Published: June 29, 2002
Genet. Mol. Res. 1 (2) : 147-152

Abstract

Apomixis means seed formation without fertilization. In cassava (Manihot esculenta) it is an alternative to reproduction by cuttings, which normally transmits pathogens and leads to an accumulation of viral and bacterial diseases. Apomixis also assures preservation of heterosis and avoids genetic segregation. It occurs in wild relatives of cassava and has been transferred successfully from Manihot glaziovii and M. neusana. It is facultative, and occurs at a low frequency, ranging from 1-2%, and apparently is genetically different from apomixis in other crops. With selection, the frequency can reach 13%. Apomixis in cassava is frequently associated with aneuploidy but it does occur in some diploid types. It is due to the formation of aposporic sacs, which can easily be detected by clearing tissue preparations. Apomixis appears to have played an important role in speciation during the evolution of Manihot, since it leads to the maintenance and perpetuation of sterile interspecific hybridization. The use of apomixis in cassava breeding could lead to a boom in line improvement and commercial production. In addition to preserving superior genotypes, avoiding contamination of new plants, it would enable international programs to export their germplasm to destination countries. This would allow the use of superior genotypes even if apomixis occurs at a low frequency. A scheme to maximize benefits is to use diploid apomictic clones as maternal parents, which can be crossed with pollinators of polyploid interspecific hybrids, followed by selection among the progeny of new apomictic types that combine the heteroses of both interspecific hybridization and polyploidy. In addition, they acquire favored genes that have been transferred from the wild to the commercial crop.

Apomixis means seed formation without fertilization. In cassava (Manihot esculenta) it is an alternative to reproduction by cuttings, which normally transmits pathogens and leads to an accumulation of viral and bacterial diseases. Apomixis also assures preservation of heterosis and avoids genetic segregation. It occurs in wild relatives of cassava and has been transferred successfully from Manihot glaziovii and M. neusana. It is facultative, and occurs at a low frequency, ranging from 1-2%, and apparently is genetically different from apomixis in other crops. With selection, the frequency can reach 13%. Apomixis in cassava is frequently associated with aneuploidy but it does occur in some diploid types. It is due to the formation of aposporic sacs, which can easily be detected by clearing tissue preparations. Apomixis appears to have played an important role in speciation during the evolution of Manihot, since it leads to the maintenance and perpetuation of sterile interspecific hybridization. The use of apomixis in cassava breeding could lead to a boom in line improvement and commercial production. In addition to preserving superior genotypes, avoiding contamination of new plants, it would enable international programs to export their germplasm to destination countries. This would allow the use of superior genotypes even if apomixis occurs at a low frequency. A scheme to maximize benefits is to use diploid apomictic clones as maternal parents, which can be crossed with pollinators of polyploid interspecific hybrids, followed by selection among the progeny of new apomictic types that combine the heteroses of both interspecific hybridization and polyploidy. In addition, they acquire favored genes that have been transferred from the wild to the commercial crop.

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