Integrating phenotypic evaluations with a molecular diversity assessment of an Ethiopian collection of common bean landraces

Understanding the organisation of genetic diversity in a crop species is a key element for both the conservation and utilisation of its genetic resources. In the case of common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.), Ethiopia is one of the secondary centers of diversity of this species. Hence, this study sought to improve our understanding of genetic diversity of common bean by integrating morphological and agronomic evaluations with prior molecular diversity data from a collection of landrace accessions from different common bean growing regions of Ethiopia. The samples studied included 115 landraces, four standard varieties, and two control genotypes. Twenty agronomic traits and morphological descriptors were used to evaluate the accessions under field conditions. A Principal Component Analysis clearly separated the accessions into the Andean and Mesoamerican gene pools, with the first two axes explaining most of the variation. Step-wise discriminant and canonical correlation analyses, with all variables or only the morphological variables, enabled the identification of characters distinguishing accessions from the Andean/Mesoamerican gene pools, and their respective ecogeographic races. Data distinguishing racial and morphological traits were used to clarify the identities of five cluster groups, identified at STRUCTURE preset K = 5, in a preceding study. The three Andean cluster groups were shown to belong to two of the races in the gene pool, ‘Nueva Granada’ and ‘Peru’; while the two Mesoamerican groups were from the race ‘Mesoamerica’. By integrating the morphological and agronomic evaluation of an Ethiopian germplasm collection of common bean, initially performed just based on molecular characterisation, we were able to improve our understanding of the organisation of this diversity. Our results suggest extensive hybridisation between the Andean and Mesoamerican gene pools after introduction of common bean germplasm in Ethiopia.