Molecular markers for genetic diversity studies in African leafy vegetables.
African leafy vegetables are becoming important crops in tackling nutrition and food security in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, since they provide important micronutrients and vitamins, and help resource-poor farm families bridge lean periods of food shortage. Genetic diversity studies are essential for crop improvement programmes as well as germplasm conservation efforts, and research on genetic diversity of these vegetables using molecular markers has been increasing over time. Diversity studies have evolved from the use of morphological and biochemical markers to molecular markers. Molecular markers provide valuable data, since they detect mostly selectively neutral variations at the DNA level. They are well established and their strengths and limitations have been described. New marker types are being developed from a combination of the strengths of the basic techniques to improve sensitivity, reproducibility, polymorphic information content, speed and cost. This review discusses the principles of some of the established molecular markers and their application to genetic diversity studies of African leafy vegetables with a main focus on the most common Solanum, Amaranthus, Cleome and Vigna species.