As well as being part of the wider gene pool of cultivated species such as mungbean and cowpea, Vigna lanceolata Benth. is of agronomic interest as a potentially useful species in its own right. It is widely adapted across northern Australia from the coast to inland desert regions, and possesses attributes that make it potentially suited as a ley, cover crop or pasture legume in seasonally arid tropical environments. The species comprises several morphotypes that variously differ in their broad geographic distribution, life cycle, habit, edaphic adaptation and/or amphicarpy. In order to assess the potential for breeding improved cultivars, eight representative accessions were hybridised in a complete diallel cross and the viability and fertility of the resultant hybrid progeny evaluated. Of the 56 parental combinations in the diallel, 33 resulted in healthy F1 hybrid plants, and of these, nine were at least partly self-fertile. Six of these combinations were the reciprocal crosses between three of the perennial, tuberous-rooted, amphicarpic morphotypes. Another two were the reciprocal crosses between the two annual morphotypes. The patterns of relatedness among accessions indicated by the cross-pollination studies were broadly supported by DArT molecular marker analyses, and suggested that there has been some genetic differentiation within the V. lanceolata complex. Although the process of speciation remains far from complete, the levels of genetic compatibility between some morphotypes would be inadequate to enable a breeding program to draw easily on the full range of genetic diversity within V. lanceolata. Two plausible breeding options are suggested. The first is the development of perennial, tuberous-rooted, amphicarpic ideotypes suited perhaps as pasture or understorey legumes, drawing on selected accessions from the three perennial morphotypes, where there was sufficient genetic compatibility and which collectively have wide geographical spread. The second is an annual, freely seeding, fibrous-rooted, amphicarpic ideotype suited perhaps for use as a self-regenerating ley legume, drawing on selected accessions from the two annual morphotypes.
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Vol. 67 • No. 7