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White clover (Trifolium repens) is adapted to moist, fertile soils in temperate zones. Despite its heterozygous allotetraploid nature, it lacks useful genetic variation for survival and growth in semi-arid, infertile soils. Although white clover is apparently genetically isolated in nature, 11 other taxa have so far been found that can be artificially hybridised into the wider gene pool. These species range from annuals to long-lived, hardy perennials with adaptations to stress environments, and they potentially provide new traits for the breeding of more resilient varieties of white clover. The delineation of the secondary, tertiary and quaternary gene pools is described, along with a review of interspecific hybrids achieved to date. The results of large breeding programs to integrate traits from T. nigrescens and 4x T. ambiguum are reviewed, and schemes introduced for the use of T. uniflorum, T. occidentale, T. pallescens, 2x T. ambiguum and 6x T. ambiguum. Interspecific hybrid breeding of white clover has the potential to enable the development of resilient perennial clovers for seasonally dry, infertile grassland environments in many parts of the world.
Crop and Pasture Science – CSIRO Publishing
Published: Apr 14, 2014
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