Genetic variability of a forage bermudagrass core collection
Bermudagrass (Cynodon sp.) is an important warm-season forage grass for the South and may have value as a bioenergy feedstock. The objective of this study was to measure the genetic relatedness among entries of the Cynodon clonal forage bermudagrass core collection and seven commercial forage cultivars using plant phenotype and molecular marker data from amplified fragment length polymorphisms. The collection was assessed for 22 phenotypic traits, including forage quality, plant architecture, growth habit, and ploidy level. Phenotypic variability was preserved in the forage bermudagrass core collection constructed based on 21 phenotypic traits and ploidy levels. The majority of molecular marker polymorphism observed was within phenotypic clusters (89.6%) and within the five ploidy levels (94%), and STRUCTURE analysis indicated significant admixture. Overall, the combined genetic and phenotypic variability found within the bermudagrass core collection will aid in selection of parental crosses for mapping and potential quantitative trait loci discovery and to identify parental lines that may yield greater genetic gain in breeding for important traits.