Variation in cold tolerance and spring growth among Italian white clover populations

Paolo Annicchiarico, Rosemary P. Collins, Flavia Fornasier, Ian Rhodes

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20 Citations (SciVal)


Seven populations collected at different altitudes in northern Italy, two Ladino breeding populations and two control cultivars (AberHerald and Grasslands Huia) of white clover (Trifolium repens L.) were included in a series of experiments analysing: (i) levels of cold tolerance using artificial and field-based methods; (ii) relationships between these measures of cold tolerance; (iii) components of spring yield, various physiological traits, and their relationships with cold tolerance. Rates of seedling and growing point mortality in the populations over winter, assessed in separate field experiments, were closely related (r = 0.85). Grasslands Huia showed the highest death rates, and material originating from high altitudes the lowest. The LT50 value, i.e., the temperature at which 50% of the growing points would die, estimated by an artificial freezing test, was significantly correlated with field-based measures of seedling (r = 0.64) and growing point (r = 0.84) mortality. The existence of these correlations is of potential interest for the development of indirect selection criteria for complex and expensive-to-evaluate traits such as winter survival in field plots. Besides being reliable, in this study the artificial assessment was also sensitive, providing a greater degree of separation of the populations means than field-based measures. Of the several physiological traits (water content,concentrations of water soluble and total non-structural carbohydrate, and water soluble protein content of stolons) measured at a mid-winter sampling date under field conditions, the only character showing significant variation between populations was soluble protein content. There was a slight trend for material with a higher protein content to exhibit greater field-based values of cold tolerance. High altitude populations tended to have low spring yields. The highest spring yield was found in one of the Ladino populations. The study identified two populations which combined, to differing extents, cold tolerance and spring yield characteristics that would be of potential use in breeding for specified agronomic/climatic zones.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-416
Number of pages10
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 01 Nov 2001


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