The distinctness of, and overlap between, pea genotypes held in several Pisum germplasm collections has been used to determine their relatedness and to test previous ideas about the genetic diversity of Pisum. Our characterisation of genetic diversity among 4,538 Pisum accessions held in 7 European Genebanks has identified sources of novel genetic variation, and both reinforces and refines previous interpretations of the overall structure of genetic diversity in Pisum. Molecular marker analysis was based upon the presence/absence of polymorphism of retrotransposon insertions scored by a high-throughput microarray and SSAP approaches. We conclude that the diversity of Pisum constitutes a broad continuum, with graded differentiation into sub-populations which display various degrees of distinctness. The most distinct genetic groups correspond to the named taxa while the cultivars and landraces of Pisum sativum can be divided into two broad types, one of which is strongly enriched for modern cultivars. The addition of germplasm sets from six European Genebanks, chosen to represent high diversity, to a single collection previously studied with these markers resulted in modest additions to the overall diversity observed, suggesting that the great majority of the total genetic diversity collected for the Pisum genus has now been described. Two interesting sources of novel genetic variation have been identified. Finally, we have proposed reference sets of core accessions with a range of sample sizes to represent Pisum diversity for the future study and exploitation by researchers and breeders.
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