Musa spp (plantain and banana) are important starchy staples in Nigeria in particular. They are of great socioeconomic importance, but their production has been saddled by several constraints which include pests, diseases, and lack of improved cultivars. In an attempt to overcome these constraints, there is now a need for germplasm characterization and classification as this will provide useful information for the genetic improvement of crops. The Musa genotypes in the germplasm of Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki were assessed and genetically characterized using SCoT markers which is advantageous in their low cost, simple operation, simple primer design, highly effective polymorphism, good reproducibility, and good universality. The result showed that among the markers used which includes SCoT (35, 36, 22, and 2), SCoT35 proved to be more polymorphic (100%) when observed across the species while SCoT36 showed the least (63.6 %) number of polymorphism the incompatibility observed in Efol, Numbrator, Agbagba, and Aging.


Musa spp (plantain and banana) are important starchy staples in sub-Saharan Africa and Nigeria in particular. They are of great socioeconomic importance in the country and very important food security crops in the marginal coastal zones of the country, both as energy-yielding staples, a source of micronutrients, pro-vitamin A, and other minerals (Mapongmetsem et al., 2012). However, plantain production has been saddled by several constraints which include pests, diseases, and lack of improved cultivars (Hemeng and Banful, 1994). Plantain research has been going on in Nigeria for the past two decades. Most of the research activities have been on agronomy, physiology, and postharvest. Several production technologies have been developed and disseminated to farmers (Olumba, 2014; Dzomeku et al., 2014). In attempts to overcome some of the problems associated with its production, the Nigerian breeding program has introduced hybrids and two of them have been released to farmers (Hemeng and Banful, 1994). Evidence shows that intermediate French plantain without seed, which is an elite Musa variety has a peculiar taste and high premium on the market, it is also early maturing, and a preferred variety in the confectionery industry for the production of plantain chips as snacks (Dzomeku et al., 2007). These characteristics may be genetic and could be incorporated into the breeding of appealing taste and early maturing cultivars.

Origin of Musa spp. The center of origin of Musa species lies in South-East Asia. The varieties that are used for commercial or subsistence production are predominantly triploid (2n =3x =33) cultivars that are evolutionarily derived from crosses within and between diverse accessions of two diploid ancestor species, Musa acuminata Colla (A genome) and Musa balbisiana Colla (B genome). It is assumed that M. acuminata may comprise three genetic subspecies. Most banana cultivars and all plantain landraces have 33 chromosomes (2n = 3x). These triploid genotypes are virtually or completely sterile and develop their fruit by vegetative parthenocarpy (Simmonds, 1962). Diploid landraces and tetraploid cultivars (mostly artificial hybrids) are also cultivated.

Germplasm characterization and classification provide useful information for the genetic improvement of crops.  Morphological traits in the genus Musa are influenced by genotype × environment interactions making them unstable and variable over time and location, which limits their use in taxonomy.

Moreover, plantains exhibit a high level of somaclonal variation. Morphological characteristics are usually determined by a small number of genes that may not represent the total genetic diversity within the genome. Considerable attempts have been made to distinguish and classify Musa accessions on the basis of molecular markers such as randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD), amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP), and microsatellites (Onguso et al., 2004). Another complementary dominant marker system is Inter-Retrotransposon Amplified Polymorphism (IRAP) which is used to detect retrotransposon insertional polymorphism (Teo et al., 2005). Recent molecular characterization efforts have developed a platform for efficient genotyping of Musa using microsatellite markers (Christelova et al., 2011). In recent research, many studies have been carried out on microsatellites on Musa spp. (Christelova et al., 2016) providing information for further research.

SCoT marker application

Development and application of technologies based on molecular markers provide the only tools that are able to reveal polymorphism at the DNA sequence level, which is adequate to detect genetic variability between individuals and within populations (Kresovich et al., 1995). Start Codon Targeted technique (SCoT) has been successfully used in a wide range of plants species including rice, sugarcane, tritordeums, grape, peanut, potato, myrica, mango, rubra, garbanzo and Zea mays and this proved that (SCoT) is useful method in assessment the genetic diversity, structure, cultivars and DNA fingerprinting of different species (Vivodík et al., 2016).

Hence, the need to study diversity between the local and introduced varieties at the molecular level using SCoT markers to understand and document useful information on Musa germplasm, for further research.


The aim of this study was to evaluate the genetic diversity of Ebonyi State University Musa germplasm.


  1. To generate SCoT markers suitable for characterizing the Ebonyi State Musa
  2. To characterize genetically Musa genotypes in Ebonyi State Musa germplasm in Ebonyi State Musa
  3. To assess the relativity of characterized Musa genotypes


Diversity analysis, the measurement of genetic similarity or differences among plant species, is important information in crop conservation and varietal development (Romero et al., 2009). The study of phenotypic and genetic diversity to identify groups with diverse genotypes is important for conserving, evaluating, and utilizing genetic resources and further developing new crop varieties (Maric et al., 2004). Among all the molecular marker systems, Start Codon Targeted (SCoT) polymorphism is a new marker type and has not yet been used in the Musa diversity studies. This study has shown that the whole marker used was highly polymorphic at about 90 % and above apart from SCoT36. This incompatibility of SCoT36 was observed in Efol, Numbrator, Agbagba, and Aging, and this could be attributed to dissimilarity in alleles found in their shared locus. Such a low level of polymorphism has been observed in researchers in cultivars of different crops such as mango (73.82%) (Luo et al., 2011) and peanut (38.22 %) (Xiong et al., 2010).

SCoT 35 (Plate 1) showed 100 % polymorphism which could be attributed to allelic similarity and should be used to assess other Musa genotypes as this will help in assessing similarities among Musa germplasms.

In conclusion, SCoT35 proved to be more polymorphic when observed across the species while SCoT36 showed the least number of polymorphism.




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