Gliricidia sepium and G. maculata are multi-purpose leguminous trees native to Central America and Mexico. Research programmes have been initiated to define the native distribution of Gliricidia and sample the spectrum of genetic variation. To date, there has been little systematic assessment of genetic variability in multi-purpose tree species. Accurate estimates of diversity between- and within-populations are considered a prerequisite for the optimization of sampling and breeding strategies. We have used a PCR-based polymorphic assay procedure (RAPDs) to monitor genetic variability in Gliricidia. Extensive genetic variability was detected between species and the variability was partitioned into between- and within-population components. On average, most (60 per cent) of the variation occurs between G. sepium populations but oligonucleotide primers differed in their capacity to detect variability between and within populations. Population-specific genetic markers were identified. RAPDs provide a cost-effective method for the precise and routine evaluation of variability and may be used to identify areas of maximum diversity. The approaches outlined have general applicability to a range of organisms and are discussed in relation to the exploitation of multi-purpose tree species of the tropics.
- Woody perennials