World hazelnut production is based on European hazelnut (Corylus avellana) and is limited by the narrow climatic requirements of this species. The cold hardiness and disease resistance of the American hazelnut (Corylus americana) offer opportunities to expand production to new areas including the Upper Midwest (USA). The American hazelnut is a phenotypically diverse species. This study used ten microsatellite marker loci to investigate genetic diversity in 1140 individuals sampled from 25 populations across Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and North Dakota. Overall, the marker loci were highly polymorphic (Ho = 0.69, He = 0.78, PIC = 0.84) with 7–13 alleles per locus. There was very high genetic diversity within populations (90% of the total) and some tendency toward population differentiation. Mantel’s test showed that genetic distance among the populations was not correlated with geographic distance. We conclude that selection of individuals for use in breeding should be based primarily on phenotype (productivity, nut size, percent kernel, ease of harvest), with care to include representatives of genetically differentiated populations.
- Geographic genetics