It has been observed that the plant generally concentrates in the alluvial soils accumulated by the Aras River and in the semi-shade areas formed by the surrounding arid and semi-arid plants, and it grows in places that are not in direct contact with water. It is thought that they were probably fed by leachate from the riverside. Asparagus is known to be ecologically tolerant of high temperature and arid conditions mainly under forest cover, as well as in various areas including semi-desert steppes (Boubetra et al. 2017). Asparagus can be grown in various regions of Africa, America, Asia and Europe, which makes it not selective in terms of climate requirements due to its high adaptability (Vural et al. 2000) and they do not like precipitation especially during the spear harvest period (Wilson et al. 1996). Especially in terms of temperature requirement, asparagus has a wide climatic tolerance (Altunel, 2021). However, as can be seen in Supplementary Fig. 1a, b, in the research findings, it was identified that the spear emergence and flowering and fruit maturity dates were delayed due to a decrease in temperatures throughout the province in the second year.
Edible spear length and diameter are considered to determine whether it is marketable or not. It has been reported that edible spear length of 180–250 mm (Anido and Cointry 2008; Lee et al. 2014) and spear diameter of 8 mm and above in asparagus (Korkmaz et al., 2020) can be considered marketable. Asparagus spears examined in the Karakoyunlu district seem to be suitable in terms of edible spear properties. Quantitative parameters such as total spear production, total spear number per plant and spear diameter determine yield in asparagus, although diversity can still be seen when considering a general population (Falloon and Nikoloff 1986). In addition, the amount of asparagus produced per plant is significantly affected by appropriate ecological conditions, the harvest density of the plant, harvest quality and harvest frequency (Benincasa et al. 2007; Molina et al. 2012).
It is thought that the variability of spear weights is related to the age of the plant as well as the climatic conditions of the growing area. Lee et al. (2014) determined the mean ESFW of 17.3–24.1 g and the mean ESD of 8.27-11.0 mm in their study on cultured asparagus (A. officinalis L.). Alan (2016), on the other hand, reported that the mean ESFW varies between 23.5–51 g in study on the adaptation of asparagus. It was observed that wild asparagus grown naturally in the Iğdır plain formed lighter spears compared to the cultivated asparagus, depending on ecological conditions, and only the samples in the Karakoyunlu district formed average edible spears. Mousavizadeh et al. (2015) stated that ESL was positively related to branch length, number of cladods, spear diameter, spear fresh and dry weight. Our results show that there is a positive relationship between ESL and ESD with ESFW and ESDW.
Machon et al. (1995) stated that in the dioecious A. officinalis, in female plants, it was estimated that the number of fruit per plant and seeds per fruit, was positively correlated with spear diameter and length and negatively correlated with spear number. Boubetra et al. (2017), on the other hand, in their research reported fruit diameter and number of seeds per fruit respectively as; A. acutifolius 4.4-7 mm, 1–2 pieces, A. albus 4–6 mm, 1–2 pieces, A. horridus 5–7 mm, 1–2 pieces, A. officinalis 4.5–5.2 mm, 1–3 pieces and A. altissimus 5–6 mm, 1–2 pieces. Our findings showed that fruit diameters can reach a much larger size than the asparagus used this study, and more seeds per fruit (1–5 seeds) can be obtained.
The main vegetative parts that create the asparagus plant are the spears above the ground, and the rhizome body called the claw, which is formed by the differentiation of roots and roots under the ground. The part that creates the above-ground plant is the structure formed by the coming together of a single or more spears. In our research, besides determining the edible spear characteristics of local asparagus, in order to reveal the marketability potential, considering the possibility of botanical identification of regional asparagus and their inclusion in breeding programs, some parameters were investigated in adult spears of male and female plants, separately. This is because genetic structure, environmental conditions and sexual dimorphism affect the yield and quality of asparagus (Pegiou et al. 2020). Observed PL, PD, PFW and PDW parameters were found to be statistically significant in both male and female plants with regard to locations (Table 6).
In general, plant height in commercial asparagus varies between 0.3 and 2 m (Anido and Cointry, 2008). Boubetra et al. (2017) in their study on A. acutifolius, A. albus, A. horridus, A. officinalis and A. altissimus species, reported plant lengths between 0.5-2 m, 0.95 m, 0.25-1 m, 0.5-2 m and 1–5 m, respectively. Our research findings show that the plant sizes of asparagus in Iğdır plain are higher.
Mousavizadeh et al. (2015), reported that mean shoot dry weight was positively correlated with plant length (r = 0.73), spear length (r = 0.90), spear diameter (r = 0.87), spear number (r = 0.81) and spear fresh weight (r = 0.97), although there were differences among regions from where asparagus samples were taken. The findings of the study showed that there is a positive relationship between plant height and diameter with fresh and dry weights, although there are differences across locations. These researches also reported that there was a positive relationship between the number of branches with the fresh and dry weight of the plant. Similarly, our study findings show that there is a positive relationship between the number of branches in the spear with the fresh and dry weight of the plant. Leaf (cladode) morphology in asparagus varies in number, size and appearance (Fukuda et al. 2005). Cladodes are leaf-like morphology and axillary position, and it’s used to identify morphological variations (Nakayama et al. 2012). Boubetra et al. (2017) reported that cladode lengths were calculated in A. acutifolius, A. albus, A. horridus, A. officinalis and A. altissimus species, and found between 1.7–7.3 mm, 11-27.2 mm, 19.9–86.2 mm, and 12.9–26.7 mm 14.9–19.7, respectively. In this context, it can be realized that leaf lengths in the present finding are higher than other asparagus species which may be due to ecological variations.
Morphological classification provides useful guidelines for demonstrating species relationships and developing further information for plant breeders and gene bank management (Khadivi-Khub et al., 2012). Although morphological characterization is generally sensitive to environmental effects, it is used to evaluate germplasm resource diversity with economic, simple and intuitive advantages, using traditional approaches (Linda et al. 2009; Sarabi et al. 2010). In addition, morphological variation is positively associated with genetic variation and can provide a lot of valuable information for breeders (Moose and Mumm 2008). It has been reported that 12 species are naturally raised in Turkey and that some of its species are under heavy extinction (Vural et al. 2000; Norup et al. 2015), and it is known that wild asparagus are distributed in many parts of the country, especially in the western parts of the country (Eren, 2014). Iğdır is the only province of Turkey bordering three countries and is one of the largest microclimate regions (MAF, 2022). Due to its climatic advantages, it is one of the provinces with the largest flora in the Eastern Anatolia Region. Davis (1965; 1985) stated that asparagus is widespread in the flora of Iğdır, and it grows in moist pastures, volcanic soil heaps, salty steppes, edges of bushes and at altitudes between 800–1700 m. Kumlay et al. (2010) reported that A. officinalis species is among the wild plants found in the natural flora in Iğdır province and is consumed by the local people. Also, Fayvush et al. (2017) meintoned in their research that A. officinalis and A.verticillatus species are found in natural flora in sandy-loamy areas in Azerbaijan, Iran, Armenia, Georgia and Eastern Anatolia Region of Turkey, and their fresh spears are consumed raw or cooked by the local people. However, all of the above information is based on a random sample from the region or based on estimates. Our research is the first study to investigate the natural distribution of wild asparagus and reveal some agro-morphological characteristics across the Iğdır plain.
In order to analyse the asparagus genotypes in the plain, their natural distribution areas were determined and some agro-morphological features were discussed with a two-year data. Some parameters were also examined and existing literature were reviewed with commercial varieties and other wild species. Although there are differences in some characteristics, it has been revealed that they are generally within acceptable limits in terms of marketability and inclusion in breeding programs. The same species or cultivars may have significant variation in some traits and have the potential to produce a complex phenomenon of intra-species polymorphism. Morphological variations are important because they generally show high phenotypic plasticity (Chen et al. 2020). If these asparagus are included in possible breeding studies, it is important to define the superior locations in terms of some characteristics (such as spear size, weight). Samples taken from Karakoyunlu district can be included in breeding programs primarily due to their high edible spear characteristics and their high density in natural distribution areas. Wide variation of genetic resources will provide rich resources for asparagus cultivation if wild species are cultivated. Because wild asparagus species are considered to be a very important genetic resource for asparagus breeding, due to the narrow genetic basis of commercial varieties available (Regalado et al. 2017). For this reason, the result obtained from the present investigation with regard to variations in asparagus species can be an important preliminary data for breeding programs in the future.