Groundnuts are among the principle economic oilseed largely cultivated in warm regions of Kenya and contribute to domestic food security and cash revenue. The study aimed at evaluating genetic diversity and phenotypic characterization of groundnut varieties grown in some parts of Kenya. Six varieties (ICG83708, ICGV99568, CG7, ICGV12991, RV and Chalimbana) obtained from KALRO (Kakamega) based on quality traits. Seeds were planted in cylindrical cans with 0.2 m3 of soil and allowed to germinate for 3 weeks. Leaf trait measurement was done using 15 cm ruler and the data was recorded in excel spreadsheet and exported to MINITAB v17 software. Extracted DNA was amplified using 11 SSR primers with manual scoring of bands. A dendrogram of cluster analysis was constructed based on simple matching coefficient of 11 microsatellite markers. Principle components showed Eigen values with 67.2% variability of all the traits studied. A total of 35 alleles were detected across the loci of 11 primers used. Major allele frequency ranged from 0.9333 in IPAHM 165 to the least frequency of 0.6333 in IPAHM 176 with an average of 0.7610 across all the markers. The expected heterozygosity had a mean of 0.3178 with highest value of 0.4511 in IPAHM 176. Phylogenetic tree had three major clusters and with high bootstrap values in genotype icgv99568 replicates. Primer IPAHM176 was the most informative marker and should be utilized in selection of parent plants with good quality traits. Breeding programs on groundnuts should utilize grain and seed traits since they are informative and discriminatory.
Key words: Groundnut varieties, phenotypic and genetic characterization, gene diversity.
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