Feral populations of Brassica oleracea along Atlantic coasts in western Europe

Elizabeth A. Mittell*, Christina A. Cobbold, Umer Zeeshan Ijaz, Elizabeth A. Kilbride, Karen A. Moore, Barbara K. Mable

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There has been growing emphasis on the role that crop wild relatives might play in supporting highly selected agriculturally valuable species in the face of climate change. In species that were domesticated many thousands of years ago, distinguishing wild populations from escaped feral forms can be challenging, but reintroducing variation from either source could supplement current cultivated forms. For economically important cabbages (Brassicaceae: Brassica oleracea), “wild” populations occur throughout Europe but little is known about their genetic variation or potential as resources for breeding more resilient crop varieties. The main aim of this study was to characterize the population structure of geographically isolated wild cabbage populations along the coasts of the UK and Spain, including the Atlantic range edges. Double-digest restriction-site-associated DNA sequencing was used to sample individual cabbage genomes, assess the similarity of plants from 20 populations, and explore environment–genotype associations across varying climatic conditions. Interestingly, there were no indications of isolation by distance; several geographically close populations were genetically more distinct from each other than to distant populations. Furthermore, several distant populations shared genetic ancestry, which could indicate that they were established by escapees of similar source cultivars. However, there were signals of local adaptation to different environments, including a possible relationship between genetic diversity and soil pH. Overall, these results highlight wild cabbages in the Atlantic region as an important genetic resource worthy of further research into their relationship with existing crop varieties.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalEcology and Evolution
VolumeEarly View
Early online date24 Sept 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Sept 2020


  • Brassica oleracea
  • Crop wild relatives
  • Domestication
  • Environment–genotype associations
  • Feral populations
  • Isolation by distance


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