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Long distance pollen-mediated gene flow at a landscape level: the weed beet as a case study

Authors

  • STÉPHANE FÉNART,

    1. Laboratoire de Génétique et Évolution des Populations Végétales, UMR CNRS 8016, FR CNRS 1818, Bâtiment SN2, Université des Sciences et Technologies de Lille — Lille 1, F-59655 Villeneuve d’Ascq cedex, France,
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    • Present address: Laboratory for Plant Biology and Nature Management, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Pleinlaan 2, B-1050 Brussels, Belgium.

  • FRÉDÉRIC AUSTERLITZ,

    1. Laboratoire Écologie, Systématique et Évolution, UMR CNRS-UPS-ENGREF 8079, Bâtiment 360, Université Paris-Sud, F-91405 Orsay cedex, France
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  • JOËL CUGUEN,

    1. Laboratoire de Génétique et Évolution des Populations Végétales, UMR CNRS 8016, FR CNRS 1818, Bâtiment SN2, Université des Sciences et Technologies de Lille — Lille 1, F-59655 Villeneuve d’Ascq cedex, France,
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  • JEAN-FRANÇOIS ARNAUD

    1. Laboratoire de Génétique et Évolution des Populations Végétales, UMR CNRS 8016, FR CNRS 1818, Bâtiment SN2, Université des Sciences et Technologies de Lille — Lille 1, F-59655 Villeneuve d’Ascq cedex, France,
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Jean-François Arnaud, Fax: +33 3 20 43 69 79; E-mail: jean-francois.arnaud@univ-lille1.fr

Abstract

Gene flow is a crucial parameter that can affect the organization of genetic diversity in plant species. It has important implications in terms of conservation of genetic resources and of gene exchanges between crop to wild relatives and within crop species complex. In the Beta vulgaris complex, hybridization between crop and wild beets in seed production areas is well documented and the role of the ensuing hybrids, weed beets, as bridges towards wild forms in sugar beet production areas have been shown. Indeed, in contrast to cultivated beets that are bi-annual, weed beets can bolt, flower and reproduce in the same crop season. Nonetheless, the extent of pollen gene dispersal through weedy lineages remains unknown. In this study, the focus is directed towards weed-to-weed gene flow, and we report the results of a pollen-dispersal analysis within an agricultural landscape composed of five sugar beet fields with different levels of infestation by weed beets. Our results, based on paternity analysis of 3240 progenies from 135 maternal plants using 10 microsatellite loci, clearly demonstrate that even if weedy plants are mostly pollinated by individuals from the same field, some mating events occur between weed beets situated several kilometres apart (up to 9.6 km), with rates of interfield-detected paternities ranging from 11.3% to 17.5%. Moreover, we show that pollen flow appears to be more restricted when individuals are aggregated as most mating events occurred only for short-distance classes. The best-fit dispersal curves were fat-tailed geometric functions for populations exhibiting low densities of weed beets and thin-tailed Weibull function for fields with weed beet high densities. Thus, weed beet populations characterized by low density with geographically isolated individuals may be difficult to detect but are likely to act as pollen traps for pollen emitted by close and remote fields. Hence, it appears evident that interfield pollen-mediated gene flow between weed beets is almost unavoidable and could contribute to the diffusion of (trans)genes in the agricultural landscape.

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