Origin and ancestry of Egyptian clover (Trifolium alexandrinum L.) As revealed by AFLP markers

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The origin and ancestry for Egyptian clover, Trifolium alexandrinum, was examined using AFLP data. The data support a close relationship of T. alexandrinum accessions from Syria and Egypt to T. apertum, T. berytheum, and T. salmoneum. However, crossability and geographic distributions suggest that T. apertum is an unlikely progenitor. In contrast, T. salmoneum appears to be the most probable progenitor for Syrian material of Egyptian clover, although a close relationship to T. berytheum was also revealed. The ability of these species to cross freely indicates that T. salmoneum and T. berytheum may be regarded as the primary ancestors from, which man domesticated Egyptian clover through artificial selection in Syria. Following domestication, the earlier forms of the crop species could have been taken into rain-fed cultivation in Palestine and irrigated cultivation in Egypt. In this regard, the domestication of Egyptian clover may be analogous to other crops, such as barley and wheat, which were also domesticated in the Fertile Crescent and taken into cultivation in the Nile Valley. It appears that genetic improvement of the crop occurred in Egypt after cultivation, and that the varieties that were developed in Egypt were later distributed worldwide.

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