Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/1/2001
Publication Date: 1/1/2001
Citation: Prosperi, J-M., Auricht, G.C., Genier, G., Johnson, R.C. Medics (Medicago L.) In N. Maxted and S. Bennett (ed.) Plant Genetic Resources of Legumes in the Mediterranean. Kluwer, Dordrecht, the Netherlands. 2001. p. 99-114.
Interpretive Summary: The genus Medicago includes the most important of forage legume, alfalfa, along with numerous other species potentially useful in sustainable agricultural systems. In the future, Medicago will be a key genus for forage and legume research. It includes legume species in relation to rhizobium, species with widely different attributes (rare and endangered, colonisers and widespread, diploid or polyploid, annual or perennial). The species M. truncatula is being used as the model genetic system for legumes. Gene-banks with seeds currently available for research along with new efforts to preserve naturally occurring populations are critical to conserving Medicago genetic resources for future use.
Technical Abstract: The Medicago genus is among the most important for forage utilization. Alfalfa is used worldwide and is cultivated on more than 33 million ha. Other species within Medicago have current and potential use as forage and cover crops in sustainable agricultural systems, and as model systems for forage legume genetics. The center of origin for Medicago appears to be south-west Asia, and extended into the Mediterranean basin. It was introduced to the western hemisphere and Australia in the 17th century. Alfalfa plant breeding in the last 50 years has concentrated on improving disease and pest resistance, and the availability of genetic resources has been key. Other species of considerable importance include the perennials M. falcata and M. varia, and the annuals such as M. polymorpha, M. lupulina, and M. truncatula. Gene-banks for ex situ conservation will continue to play an important role in providing genetic resources for research on Medicago species. In addition, in situ conservation of landraces and wild populations needs to be expanded and developed to ensure that the genetic diversity of the Medicago genus will be conserved for future use.