Annual ryegrass is a temperate climate annual foraging grass, grown mostly in the South of Brazil, especially in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. Despite its importance, little is known about its genetic diversity, both within and among the populations cultivated. This knowledge is of fundamental importance for developing breeding and conservation strategies. The aim of this study was to characterize the genetic diversity and structure of four populations of annual ryegrass. Three of the populations were located in Rio Grande do Sul and the fourth in Uruguay. RAPD markers were used to study the genetic diversity and structure of these populations. Analysis of 375 individuals sampled from the populations, using six RAPD primers, generated a total of 82 amplified bands. They included 73 polymorphic bands (89,02%). The value of the total genetic diversity index obtained, <IMG SRC="/img/revistas/sa/v61n4/22157s1.gif">(0,71) was high, indicating the presence of wide genetic diversity in the four populations. Genetic structure analysis revealed that 98% of total diversity is intrapopulational, whereas interpopulational genetic diversity was only 2%. These results suggest that before these populations separated, they had gone through a period of gene exchange and, even after the separation event, gene frequency stayed at levels similar to the original levels, with no differential selection for these genes in the different cultivation areas.
foraging; genetic diversity; molecular markers