Establishing the A. E. Watkins landrace cultivar collection as a resource for systematic gene discovery in bread wheat

Luzie U. Wingen*, Simon Orford, Richard Goram, Michelle Leverington‑Waite, Lorelei Bilham, Theofania S. Patsiou, Mike Ambrose, Jo Dicks, Simon Griffiths

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Citations (Scopus)


In the 1930s A. E. Watkins acquired landrace cultivars of bread wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) from official channels of the board of Trade in London, many of which originated from local markets in 32 countries. The geographic distribution of the 826 landrace cultivars of the current collection, here called the Watkins collection, covers many Asian and European countries and some from Africa. The cultivars were genotyped with 41 microsatellite markers in order to investigate the genetic diversity and population structure of the collection. A high level of genetic diversity was found, higher than in a collection of modern European winter bread wheat varieties from 1945 to 2000. Furthermore, although weak, the population structure of the Watkins collection reveals nine ancestral geographical groupings. An exchange of genetic material between ancestral groups before commercial wheat-breeding started would be a possible explanation for this. The increased knowledge regarding the diversity of the Watkins collection was used to develop resources for wheat research and breeding, one of them a core set, which captures the majority of the genetic diversity detected. The understanding of genetic diversity and population structure together with the availability of breeding resources should help to accelerate the detection of new alleles in the Watkins collection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1831-1842
Number of pages12
JournalTheoretical and Applied Genetics
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jun 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2014.


  • A high level of genetic diversity was found in the A. E. Watkins bread wheat landrace collection
  • Genotypic information was used to determine the population structure and to develop germplasm resources


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