To study Moroccan saffron germplasm variability relating to different agro-morphological and phenological traits, 969 saffron corms (accessions) were collected from thirteen different sites located in traditional saffron area of Taliouine-Taznakht. The study confirmed a wide range of phenotypic variability within and between populations. The variance analysis revealed that the mother corm weight (MCW), taken as covariant, has significant effect on all studied traits. The difference within and between origins (Provenances) was highly significant for all traits, which showed highly significant correlation. The flowers number (NF) as well as the number of daughter corms weighing above 7 g per plant (NDC≥7) turned out to be the most determinant parameters of saffron yield. The produced FN per corm varied from 1 to 9 with an average of 2.2 flowers. P1 population recorded a flowering rate of 65.5% with a maximum average of NF (2). Stigmat length (SL), which is an important yield trait, showed wide variation between origins from 32 to 38 mm. The mean stigma dry weight (DSW) varied from 4.2 to 6.2 mg with a maximum of 7.1 mg per flower recorded in P1. The PCA revealed 5 homogeneous main groups inside the studied populations. The first one was monoorganogenic and consisted of P1 population only, a group characterized by high values of MCW, NF, NDC≥7 and DSW. This study confirms as well a noticeable influence of corm origin on saffron yield, explained by the genotypic profile and/or the epigenetic effects of the different origins. These results proved a variability which should be useful to the selection program aiming the improvement of saffron productivity in Morocco.
Key words: Variability, agro-morphological traits, phenological traits, saffron corms, Morocco.
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