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Open Access Research article

Implementation of a model for identifying Essentially Derived Varieties in vegetatively propagated Calluna vulgaris varieties

Thomas Borchert1, Joerg Krueger2 and Annette Hohe2*

Author Affiliations

1 Heidepflanzen Peter de Winkel, Douvenberg 34, 47547 Goch, Germany

2 Institute of Vegetable and Ornamental Crops (IGZ), Dept. Plant Propagation, Kuehnhaeuser Str. 101, 99189 Erfurt, Germany

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BMC Genetics 2008, 9:56  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-9-56

Published: 20 August 2008



Variety protection is of high relevance for the horticultural community and juridical cases have become more frequent in a globalized economy due to essential derivation of varieties. This applies equally to Calluna vulgaris, a vegetatively propagated species from the Ericaceae family that belongs to the top-selling pot plants in Europe. We therefore analyzed the genetic diversity of 74 selected varieties and genotypes of C. vulgaris and 3 of Erica spp. by means of RAPD and iSSR fingerprinting using 168 mono- and polymorphisms. The same data set was utilized to generate a system to reliably identify Essentially Derived Varieties (EDVs) in C. vulgaris, which was adapted from a method suggested for lettuce and barley. This system was developed, validated and used for selected tests of interest in C. vulgaris.


As expected following personal communications with breeders, a very small genetic diversity became evident within C. vulgaris when investigated using our molecular methods. Thus, a dendrogram-based assay to detect Essentially Derived Varieties in this species is not suitable, although varieties are propagated vegetatively. In contrast, the system applied in lettuce, which itself applies pairwise comparisons using appropriate reference sets, proved functional with this species.


The narrow gene pool detected in C. vulgaris may be the genetic basis for juridical conflicts between breeders. We successfully tested a methodology for identification of Essentially Derived Varieties in highly identical C. vulgaris genotypes and recommend this for future proof of essential derivation in C. vulgaris and other vegetatively propagated crops.