Genetic structure and distinctive features of landraces, such as adaptability to local agro-ecosystems and specific qualitative profiles, can be substantially altered by the massive introduction of allochthonous germplasm. The landrace known as "Cipolla rossa di Acquaviva" (Acquaviva red onion, further referred to as ARO) is traditionally cultivated and propagated in a small area of the Apulia region (southern Italy). However, the recent rise of its market value and cultivation area is possibly causing genetic contamination with foreign propagating material. In this work, genotyping-by-sequencing (GBS) was used to characterize genetic variation of seven onion populations commercialized as ARO, as well as one population of the landrace "Montoro" (M), which is phenotypically similar, but originates from another cultivation area and displays different qualitative features. A panel of 5011 SNP markers was used to perform parametric and non-parametric genetic structure analyses, which supported the hypothesis of genetic contamination of germplasm commercialized as ARO with a gene pool including the M landrace. Four ARO populations formed a core genetic group, homogeneous and clearly distinct from the other ARO and M populations. Conversely, the remaining three ARO populations did not display significant differences with the M population. A set of private alleles for the ARO core genetic group was identified, indicating the possibility to trace the ARO landrace by means of a SNP-based molecular barcode. Overall, the results of this study provide a framework for further breeding activities and the traceability of the ARO landrace.
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