Old genetic resources and new genomic tools for a resilient agriculture

Plant genetic resources are potential sources of biodiversity, especially useful in the current climate change scenario. The genotyping of more than 500 varieties of the legume common vetch has allowed the construction of a representative core collection, which includes diversity for agronomic traits associated with yield and drought tolerance, now available for breeding programs.


The common vetch (Vicia sativa) is an important source of plant protein. In addition, this legume is very valuable for its high nitrogen fixation capacity, which favors the sustainability of agricultural ecosystems by decreasing the use of nitrogen fertilizers, thus reducing CO2 emissions and other pollutants.

The Spanish common vetch collection, conserved in the INIA-CRF, is one of the largest collections of this species worldwide, including hundreds of landraces or local varieties and wild relatives of Spanish and international origin. Germplasm banks are crucial resources for the conservation of natural genetic diversity in the collections they maintain. However, the use of these collections in breeding programs is frequently limited by the difficulty in characterizing their large number of accessions.

New genotyping methodologies, like multiplex PCR with SSR markers and other types of molecular markers, have allowed us to analyze the genetic diversity of more than 500 varieties of the common vetch germplasm collection, a species whose genome is not sequenced.

The use of these genotyping tools, together with new agromorphological data, including drought tolerance traits, has allowed us to establish a core collection of 47 accessions. This core collection presents a minimal loss of genetic diversity concerning the total collection and constitutes an invaluable material that can play a fundamental role in the conservation and exploitation of these genetic resources for direct use in resilient agricultural systems and for future breeding programs, mainly in those focused on consequences and demands of climate change.


Original Paper:

De la Rosa, L., López-Román, M.I., González, J.M., Zambrana, E., Marcos-Prado, T., Ramírez-Parra, E. 2021. Common Vetch, Valuable Germplasm for Resilient Agriculture: Genetic Characterization and Spanish Core Collection Development. Frontiers in Plant Science 12, 282. DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2021.617873