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Background: Pithecellobium dulce is a multipurpose legume tree species of high ecological significance. Several reports indicate existence of huge genetic diversity within the natural population of the species. Various morphological parameters have been used to assess intra species genetic diversity, however, there is no report available so far on diversities in reproductive phenology of P. dulce of semi-arid or arid climate.
Methods: The present paper is based on assessment of diversity in flowering phenophases through construction of phenological calendar incorporating temporally observable morpho-phenotypic descriptors for reproductive behaviour of individual trees comprising natural population of the species at designated study sites during a period of three years. The study was carried out during September, 2015 and March, 2019 at Ajmer, Rajasthan, India. Data were periodically obtained and statistically analyzed.
Results: Majority of trees of flowering stage (89.94%) exhibited normal or winter blooms in which flowering was initiated in almost synchronized manner during December; 10.05% of normal blooming trees inconsistently showed additional early or autumn blooms during either September or October or November; 2.58% of trees exhibited early blooms in which flowering was consistently initiated in the month of September in addition to normal blooms. The overall production and availability of fresh fruits in early-cum-normal episodic blooming trees were greater as compared to only normal blooming trees. Though, the numerical fruit productivity in winter blooms was superior to autumn, the pomometric characteristics were inferior in former in early-cum-normal episodic blooming trees.
Conclusion: The methodology is a novel experimental approach to assess diversities in reproductive phenology of seed raised population of high value fruit bearing economically important tree species. The present work explores agronomically valuable variants of P. dulce and also reports causes of appearance of persistent fruits and sporadic in-situ germination of seeds. Based on above findings, the paper also makes evolutionary predictions that how a shift in flowering phenology of P. dulce as exhibited by the elite variants could have long-term implications for reshaping of future landscapes of semi-arid or arid climate. Conclusively, Winter to autumn phenophasic shift in flowering in P. dulce is economically productive, evolutionarily progressive, and environmentally well cued partial retrieval under semi-arid conditions. Moreover, the phenophasic variants could serve as candidate plus trees that deserve out of the season floral management and clonal propagation, thereby the species may get a fillip to status up gradation from minor fruits to major fruit category.
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