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 (MPGRC) will collaborate with National Herbarium and Botanic Gardens of Malawi (NHBGM), Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR), 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.
The project held a briefing meeting, developed a detailed work plan and identified additional data holding institutions. The project adopted the existing institutional arrangements on biodiversity data sharing and management made between data holding institutions and the GBIF Node in Malawi, and MPGRC became a part of the Malawi Biodiversity Information Management Forum (BIMF). The National Commission for Science and Technology (NCST) and Malawi Plant Genetic Resources Center were identified and registered, respectively, as data publishing institutions.
Occurrence data was mobilized from the Royal Botanical Gardens (KEW) in London, National Herbarium and Botnical Gardens of Malawi, National Genebank and from the field where wild speices were know to occur. And through data mobilization and field ecogeographical surveys, 219 data points were collected and digitized. After cleaning, a total of 11 species occurrence data points were published on GBIF.org,
The project held a biodiversity knowledge dissemination workshop after members attended the Capacity Enhancement and Biodiversity Data Use workshops in Cape Town, South Africa, organized by BID. The dissemination workshop was attended by stakeholders which included policy makers, data holding institutions and data users. The project also held aGIS and biodiversity data management training where 15 technicians from MPGRC, LUANAR and NHBGM attended.
The project conducted a species gap and threat analysis. The projects data has been mobilized, digitized, cleaned, formated and published on GBIF. This includes a checklist of Sorghum wild species occuring in Malawi.
Through institutional capacity self assessment, MPGRC was able to identify gaps and areas of attention in biodiversity data management as a biodiversity data holding institution.