Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench is an important food crop in Malawi. Also occurring in the country are four of its wild relatives, S.versicolor Anderson, S. halepense (L.) Pers, S. sudanense (Piper) Stapf and S. arundinaceum (Desv.) Stapf. Some of these have traits that confer resistance to e.g. the pest Striga asiatica L. Kuntze and possibly tolerance to other biotic and abiotic stresses. However, little is known about the status and spatial diversity of these crop wild relatives (CWR).
This project aims at halting genetic erosion and safeguarding the species for present and future use, specifically by establishing the distribution of S.versicolor, S. halepense, S. sudanense and S. arundinaceum in Malawi, and, by establishing the spatial diversity of these crop wild relatives, assess the state of vulnerability of the species, and propose conservation plans to safeguard the threatened species.
Leading the project, Malawi Plant Genetic Resources Centre will collaborate with National Herbarium and Botanic Gardens of Malawi, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, National Commission of Science and Technology and University of Birmingham, to determine the current in situ status, distribution and spatial diversity of these species.
The data gathered by the project will guide in designing an effective and sustainable conservation plan to inform policy makers. The project will also contribute to helping periodic monitoring of the status of sorghum CWR in their habitat, and improve the knowledgebase of the species.