Genetic diversity analysis and determination of Calcium Oxalate Crystals in South African Taro (Colocasia Esculenta) accessions

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Nguluta, Mwamba
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Vaal University of Technology
Taro [Colocasia esculenta (L) Schott] belongs to the family Araceae. It is an important staple food crop grown mainly by small scale farmers in many parts of the world. Taro is also grown in South Africa from the costal parts of the northern Eastern Cape to the KwaZulu-Natal north coast. Although it is an important staple crop in South Africa, very little information exists on the genetic diversity of the crop. Knowledge of the genetic diversity of a crop is important for breeding programmes. The aim of this study is to assess the genetic diversity of taro using morphological and molecular techniques and to determine the calcium oxalate content of 25 South African taro accessions. This study showed that the aerial portions of taro are variable for most quantitative characters. Most of the morphological variation was due to lamina length, petiole length, lamina width and plant girth that explained 54% of the variance in principal component analysis. The number of raphides was able to divide the accessions into two groups, one with relatively low counts and the other with high counts. Ntumeni had the lowest raphide count of only 27 ±12 raphides and Modderfontein had the highest count with 1150 ±104 raphides. Twelve accessions having low raphide counts ranging from 27 ±12 to 147 ±28 raphides per cell have been identified. RAPD data separated the accessions into three main groups that were further divided into five subgroups. The accessions did not group according to geographical locations. The ITS2 sequence generated clustering patterns that were similar to that obtained from RAPDs. The variation in the ITS2 secondary structure of taro included one common motif that was present in all 25 accessions. Some motifs were only present in some accessions. The discovery of these motifs strengthens the potential of the ITS2 region as a taxonomic marker and a powerful barcode for taro. The ITS2 motifs provide the means of identifying each of the 25 accessions of taro. The high genetic diversity, morphological variation and accessions with low calcium oxalate content found in this study provide taro breeders a selection of parent crops for the improvement of taro.
M. Tech. (Department of Biotechnology, Faculty of Applied and Computer Sciences), Vaal University of Technology.
Taro, Calcium oxalate content, Raphides