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Horticultural Science

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News Article

Spotlight on enset

Research on a neglected crop of Ethiopia

The versatile enset crop made the news recently as a wonder crop for tackling food security and improving smallholder farm incomes.

This tall herbaceous perennial, a relative of the banana plant, is a multipurpose drought-resistant plant used as a food crop and for fodder, fibre production, fuel, traditional medicine and in cultural practices. It is a major starchy staple food crop in Ethiopia.

Although wild populations exist in eastern, central and southern Africa, Ethiopia is the only country where the crop is domesticated. Now researchers are wondering whether this crop could play a part in improving food security in other food insecure countries.

Amongst the main areas of research are the conservation, maintenance and breeding of the dwindling wild resources. A recent paper reviewed the genetics and breeding of enset, including seed biology, germplasm conservation, and breeding for disease and drought resistance. Six new promising cultivars have been released as a result of breeding trials in Ethiopia and different accessions selected for high yield and disease resistance are under evaluation. Over 1000 seeds have been deposited in Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank for conservation.

Concurrent research is identifying genetic properties of Xanthomonas campestris pv. musacearum, the cause of bacterial wilt in enset, and evaluating clones for disease resistance and management approaches.

Production in Ethiopia is mainly limited to household consumption and only small volumes come to market. Improvements are underway in crop management and market-oriented production to increase household incomes.

Search the database to explore research on this underutilized crop including landraces, genetic engineering, climate change adaptation, propagation, fertilizer requirements, pests, postharvest handling and indigenous knowledge.

Article details

  • Author(s)
  • Alexis Rendell-Dunn
  • Date
  • 18 February 2022
  • Subject(s)
  • Vegetables