Qualitative morphological diversity of Amaranthus species
Gerrano, Abe S.
Jansen van Rensburg, w.s.
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Morphological characterization of plant genetic resources generates important information for plant breeders useful for pre-breeding and breeding programmes of crops. Amaranthus is one of the underutilized and genetically potential orphan crops grown in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. It is a food security crop that can alleviate malnutrition and generate income for the rural communities in South Africa. A number of Amaranthus species have been collected from different regions in the world and conserved in the gene bank of the Agricultural Research Council, Pretoria, South Africa. The objective of the study was to assess the genetic diversity of these conserved Amaranthus species using qualitative morphological characters. Thirty two species of Amaranthus were evaluated for 16 qualitative morphological characters in the field using a randomized complete block design with three replications. The frequencies for each qualitative character were tabulated. The Shannon Weaver diversity index (HI) was calculated and the result revealed a low to high diversity among the collection regions for the traits. The result of the study showed that the HI for all the species varied from 0.28 to 0.70, indicating the existence of a wide genetic diversity among species evaluated. The information obtained in this study could be used for the genetic improvement of Amaranthus species in South Africa for the development of cultivars.