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Fekadu Gurmu, Shimelis Hussein and Mark Laing

Orange-fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP) is an effective, low-priced, and sustainable source of β-carotene (provitamin A). However, most OFSP varieties have low storage root dry matter content (DMC), which influences their acceptance by small-scale farmers and hence needs to be improved. The objective of the study was to determine the combining ability, type of gene action, heterosis and heritability of storage root DMC, β-carotene content, and yield-related traits of selected sweetpotato clones for further evaluation and breeding. Crosses were conducted using a 7 × 7 half-diallel mating design and a total of 28 genotypes (seven parents and 21 crosses) were evaluated at four locations in Ethiopia using a 7 × 4 alpha lattice design with two replications. The performance of the genotypes was significantly different (P < 0.01) across the four locations for storage root DMC, β-carotene content, sweetpotato virus disease (SPVD) reaction, storage root yield, and harvest index (HI). The general combining ability (GCA) and specific combining ability (SCA) mean squares were significant (P < 0.01) for all traits except the SCA effect of storage root DMC. The GCA to SCA variance ratios were 0.96, 0.94, 0.74, 0.96, and 0.97 for storage root DMC, β-carotene content, SPVD, fresh storage root yield, and HI, respectively, indicating that the inheritance of these traits was controlled mainly by additive genes. Progenies of crosses involving Ukerewe × Ejumula, Ukerewe × Pipi, Resisto × Pipi, and Ejumula × Pipi exhibited high levels of positive heterosis for storage root DMC. Similarly, progenies of crosses including Resisto × Pipi and Resisto × Ogansagan had higher positive heterosis for fresh storage root yield, reflecting the breeding value of these parents. Relatively high narrow sense heritability (h 2) was obtained for β-carotene content (79.8%) and HI (48.6%). However, the h 2 estimates of storage root DMC, SPVD, and fresh storage root yield were relatively low at 19.0%, 14.9%, and 20.4%, respectively. Crosses with high β-carotene content such as Ukerewe × Resisto, Resisto × Ogansagan, Eumula × Pipi, and NASPOT 1 × Temesgen exhibited high storage root DMC. These families also had medium-to-high mean fresh storage root yield. Therefore, progenies derived from these families are good candidates to develop improved OFSP varieties with high storage root DMC.

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Jacob Mashilo, Hussein Shimelis, Alfred Odindo and Beyene Amelework

Genetic diversity analysis is fundamental for effective breeding and genetic conservation. The objective of this study was to determine the genetic diversity present among dessert watermelon (Citrullus lanatus var. lanatus) and citron watermelon (C. lanatus var. citroides) landraces widely grown in South Africa and to select genetically diverse and complimentary genotypes for strategic breeding or conservation. Thirty-one dessert watermelon and 34 citron watermelon landraces were genotyped using 10 polymorphic simple sequence repeat markers. The number of alleles detected per marker ranged from 2 to 23 alleles, with a mean of 13.5 alleles. A total of 135 putative alleles were amplified from sampled watermelon populations. Number of effective alleles ranged from 1.99 to 10.88 alleles with a mean of 5.83 alleles. The mean observed and expected heterozygosity were 0.50 and 0.79, respectively. The mean polymorphic information content was 0.79. Cluster and principal coordinate analyses grouped the two watermelon populations into two separate clusters. The two populations were genetically differentiated with low gene flow, suggesting the presence of high genetic differences between the two populations. Overall, the study established the existence of considerable genetic diversity among South African grown dessert and citron watermelon landraces. Unique dessert watermelon landraces such as SWM-39, SWM-24, SWM-01, SWM-40, SWM-18, SWM-36, and SWM-26; and citron watermelon genotypes including WWM-24, WWM-37, WWM-28, WWM-34, WWM-02, WWM-22, WWM-50, and WWM-36 were selected based on their high dissimilarity index. These could be useful for breeding and systematic conservation.

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Rukundo Placide, Hussein Shimelis, Mark Laing and Daphrose Gahakwa

The role of farmers and their production constraints and preferences are important for sweetpotato breeding and adoption of cultivars and agronomic production packages. The objective of this study was to assess farmers’ perception, production constraints, preferences, and breeding priorities of sweetpotato in selected agro-ecologies of Rwanda. A total of 495 farmers were surveyed in 2013 in eight representative districts: Bugesera and Kayonza in the Eastern Province, Gakenke and Rulindo in the Northern Province, and Gisagara, Huye, and Muhanga in the Southern Province. Data were collected through a participatory rural appraisal (PRA) methodology using a semistructured questionnaire and focus group discussions. Pairwise comparison of 16 food crops allocated sweetpotato as one of the five important food crops for food security and income generation. Drought stress, unavailability of improved cultivars and planting material, and pest and disease damage were perceived to be the five main constraints limiting sweetpotato production, contributing to 17.3%, 15.0%, 12.9%, 11.7%, and 11.5%, respectively. The most important sweetpotato cultivar traits had high yield, early maturity, drought tolerance, disease and pest tolerance, and good culinary taste at 22.5%, 18.5%, 15.4%, 12.7%, and 10.1%, respectively. The characteristics of good storage roots identified by farmers included high dry matter content, good culinary taste, good shape, root size, and sweetness representing 27.4%, 18.8%, 16.1%, 11.6%, and 9.4%, respectively. Each agro-ecological zone has its own specific sweetpotato production constraints and farmers’ preferences, necessitating targeted breeding of different sweetpotato cultivars for each agro-ecological zone for enhanced productivity and successful adoption of cultivars.

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Jacob Mashilo, Hussein Shimelis, Alfred Odindo and Beyene Amelework

Bottle gourd [Lagenaria siceraria (Molina) Standl.] landraces are widely grown in South Africa, and genetic diversity analysis is necessary to identify promising genotypes for breeding or systematic conservation. Sixty-seven diverse bottle gourd landraces were genotyped using 14 selected simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers. The number of alleles detected per marker ranged from 4 to 11, with a total of 86 putative alleles being amplified. Allele sizes ranged from 145 to 330 base pair (bp). Number of effective alleles (N e) ranged from 1.58 to 6.14 with a mean of 3.10. Allelic richness varied from 3.00 to 8.90 with a mean of 5.23. Expected heterozygosity (H e) values ranged from 0.37 to 0.84 with a mean of 0.65. The mean polymorphic information content (PIC) was 0.57. Jaccard’s coefficient of similarity values ranged from 0.00 to 1.00, with a mean of 0.63. Analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA) revealed that 79%, 17%, and 4% of the variation in bottle gourd landraces was attributable to among landraces, within landraces, and between populations, respectively. The study established the existence of considerable genetic diversity among South African bottle gourd landraces. Unique landraces such as BG-4, BG-6, BG-8, BG-9, and BG-15 from cluster I; BG-55, BG-42, BG-57, and BG-58 from cluster II; BG-28, BG-23, BG-29, and BG-34 from cluster III were selected based on their highest dissimilarity index. These could be useful for bottle gourd breeding and systematic conservation.