Domestication potential of Marula (Sclerocarya birrea subsp. caffra) in South Africa and Namibia: 2. Phenotypic variation in nut and kernel traits

Leakey, Roger, Pate, Kris, and Lombard, Cyril (2005) Domestication potential of Marula (Sclerocarya birrea subsp. caffra) in South Africa and Namibia: 2. Phenotypic variation in nut and kernel traits. Agroforestry Systems, 64 (1). pp. 37-49.

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Abstract

As part of a wider study characterizing tree-to-tree variation in fruit traits as a pre-requisite for cultivar development, fruits were collected from each of 63 marula (Sclerocarya birrea) trees in Bushbuckridge, South Africa and from 55 trees from the North Central Region of Namibia. The nuts were removed from the fruit flesh, and the kernels extracted, counted and weighed individually to determine the patterns of dry matter partitioning among the nut components (shell and kernel) of different trees. Mean nut, shell and kernel mass were not significantly different between the two countries. Between sites in South Africa there were highly significant differences in mean nut mass, shell mass, kernel mass and kernel number. In Namibia, there were highly significant differences between geographic areas in mean shell mass, kernel mass and kernel number, but not in nut mass. These differences had considerable impacts on shell:kernel ratios (8.0-15.4). In South Africa, mean kernel mass was significantly greater in fruits from farmers’ fields (0.42 g) than from communal land (0.30 g) or natural woodland (0.32 g). Within all sites, in both South Africa and Namibia, there was highly significant and continuous variation between individual trees in nut mass (South Africa=2.3-7.1 g; Namibia=2.7-6.4 g) and kernel mass (South Africa=0.09-0.55 g; Namibia=0.01-0.92 g). The small and valuable kernels constitute a small part of the nut (Namibia=6.1-11.1%; South Africa=7.6-10.7%). There can be 4 kernels per nut, but even within the fruits of the same tree, kernel number can vary between 0-4, suggesting variation in pollination success, in addition to genetic variation. The nuts and kernels of the Namibian trees were compared with the fruits from one superior tree ('Namibian Wonder': nuts=10.9 g; kernels=1.1 g). Oil content (%) and oil yield (g/fruit) also differed significantly between trees (44.7-72.3% and 8.0-53.0 g/fruit). The percentage frequency distribution of kernel mass was skewed from trees in farmers’ fields in South Africa and in some sites in Namibia, suggesting a level of anthropogenic selection. It is concluded that there is great potential for the development of cultivars for kernel traits, but there is also a need to determine how to increase the proportion of nuts with four kernels, perhaps through improved pollination success.

Item ID: 5712
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: agroforestry; birrea; domestication; indigenous fruit; Southern Africa; agroforestry tree products (AFTPs); cultivar development; tree improvement
ISSN: 1572-9680
Date Deposited: 22 Dec 2009 02:08
FoR Codes: 07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0799 Other Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences > 079999 Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences not elsewhere classified @ 60%
07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0705 Forestry Sciences > 070501 Agroforestry @ 40%
SEO Codes: 82 PLANT PRODUCTION AND PLANT PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 8202 Horticultural Crops > 820214 Tropical Fruit @ 80%
82 PLANT PRODUCTION AND PLANT PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 8201 Forestry > 820103 Integration of Farm and Forestry @ 20%
Citation Count from Web of Science Web of Science 18
Downloads: Total: 4
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