Tea (Camellia sinensis
(L.) O. Kuntze) is cultivated in many developing Asian, African, and South American countries, and is the most widely consumed beverage in the world. It is of critical importance to understand the genetic diversity and population structure of tea germplasm for effective collection, conservation, and utilization. In this study, 410 tea accessions collected from South Korea were analyzed using 21 simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers. Among 410 tea accessions, 85.4% (350 accessions) were collected from Jeollanam-do. A total of 286 alleles were observed, and the genetic diversity and evenness were estimated to be on average 0.79 and 0.61, respectively, across all the tested samples. Using discriminant analysis of principal components, four clusters were detected in 410 tea accessions. Among them, cluster 1 showed a higher frequency of rare alleles (less than 1%). Using the calculation of the index of association and rbaD value, each cluster showed a clonal mode of reproduction. The result of analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA) showed that most of the variation observed was within populations (99%) rather than among populations (1%). The present study revealed the presence of lower diversity and simpler population structure in Korean tea germplasms. Consequently, more attention should be focused on collecting and conserving the new tea individuals to broaden genetic variation of new cultivars in future breeding of the tea plant.
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