In the past years, the diversity of Capsicum
has been mainly investigated through genetics and genomics approaches, fewer efforts have been made in the field of plant phenomics. Assessment of crop traits with high-throughput methodologies could enhance the knowledge of the plant phenome, giving at the same time a key contribution to the understanding of the function of many genes. In this study, a wide germplasm collection of 307 accessions retrieved from 48 world regions, and belonging to nine Capsicum
species was characterized for 54 plant, leaf, flower and fruit traits. Conventional descriptors and semi-automated tools based on image analysis and colour coordinate detection were used. Significant differences were found among accessions, between species and between sweet and spicy cultivated types, revealing a large diversity. The results highlighted how the domestication process and the continued selection have increased the variability of fruit shape and colour. Hierarchical clustering based on conventional and fruit morphological descriptors reflected the separation of species on the basis of their phylogenetic relationships. These observations suggested that the flow between distinct gene pools could have contributed to determine the similarity of the species on the basis of morphological plant and fruit parameters. The approach used represents the first high-throughput phenotyping effort in Capsicum
spp. aimed at broadening the knowledge of the diversity of domesticated and wild peppers. The data could help to select best the candidates for breeding and provide new insight into the understanding of the genetic base of the fruit shape of pepper.
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