Clonal propagation and sexual reproduction have diametrically opposite effects on the genetic diversity of crops, permitting, respectively, the conservation of existing genotypes or the creation of new diversity. Oxalis tuberosa Mol. (“oca”) exhibits a heteromorphic self-incompatibility system and is traditionally propagated clonally but is capable of sexual reproduction. In this study we investigated the influence of sexual reproduction on the in situ genetic diversity of a vegetatively propagated crop, taking oca as a model plant. The occurrence of sexual reproduction in natural conditions and its use by farmers were studied through surveys and interviews, while the effect of sexual reproduction on the in situ genetic diversity was evaluated using microsatellite analysis. The microsatellite analysis indicated a strong effect of such incorporations on the genetic diversity of the plant varieties. Assignment tests confirmed the allogamy of oca. “Complex varieties”, made up of individuals exhibiting genetically differentiated genotypes, were most likely the result of recent crossing. Unconscious incorporation of new genotypes into the cultivated oca germplasm is therefore highly likely, raising the question of its potential occurrence in other vegetatively propagated crops.
More on Oca