Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Cultivating biodiversity: Sorghum example

Date:
September 2, 2014
Source:
Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD)
Summary:
It is difficult to distinguish the human impact on the effects of natural factors on the evolution of crop plants. A Franco-Kenyan research team has managed to do just that for sorghum, one of the main cereals in Africa. The scientists demonstrated how three societies living on the slopes of Mount Kenya have shaped the geographic distribution and structure of the genetic diversity of local varieties.

Sorghum, one of the main cereals in Africa.
Credit: © IRD / A. Barnaud

It is difficult to distinguish the human impact on the effects of natural factors on the evolution of crop plants. A Franco-Kenyan research team has managed to do just that for sorghum, one of the main cereals in Africa. The scientists demonstrated how three societies living on the slopes of Mount Kenya have shaped the geographic distribution and structure of the genetic diversity of local varieties. Because of their practices for selecting and exchanging crop seeds for harvesting, the farmers in each ethnic group maintain varieties which are unique to them. These prove to be genetically and phenotypically differentiated, despite their close geographical proximity. This study sheds light on the debate on the ownership and redistribution of benefits from genetic resources.

Three societies, the same environment

Climate, environment and competition between species are well-known factors in the genetic evolution of plants. But crop plants are subject to an additional force: human action. Up to now, few studies have been able to distinguish the results of the domestication of the effects of natural constraints on crop diversity. To shed some light on this question, a Franco-Kenyan research team became interested in a particular territory: the eastern slopes of Mount Kenya. This territory offers both an ecologically homogeneous environment and brings together different ethnic groups, the Chuka, Mbeere and Tharaka peoples, making it possible to compare the influence of their different agricultural practices and traditional knowledge on the diversity of sorghum, a very important cereal in this area.

Practices that shape each variety

Researchers from the IRD, Cirad and KARI in Kenya have carried out field surveys of each ethnic group to specify their social organization, the traditional methods for selecting and exchanging seeds from one harvest to another, the importance of the market in such trading, etc. These investigations revealed that the Chuka, Mbeere and Tharaka peoples each grow a mixture of sorghum varieties that is unique to each group. Certain varieties dominate based on ethnic preferences and practices (cooking, etc.), or according to their agricultural strategies for dealing with natural hazards (long or short crop cycle varieties). In addition, local seed varieties are traditionally transmitted in a very compartmentalized way within the same ethnic group. These practices limit the genetic and phenotypic standardization of the varieties grown on the slopes of Mount Kenya. So, despite a common local market, sorghum populations are very different there.

Each ethnic group leaves its genetic "signature"

At the same time, the researchers inventoried and sampled the different varieties of sorghum grown by 130 Chuka, Mbeere and Tharaka households. DNA analysis of the 300 plants gathered has identified four genetic groups of sorghum. Two of them correspond to two introduced varieties. These are varieties that were genetically improved by NGOs or the national agricultural extension services. One of these varieties, which was introduced almost 15 years ago, seems to be more genetically diverse among the Chuka than with the other ethnic groups. This suggests that the practices of the three communities leave their "signature" in the genomes of sorghum populations.

Using this multidisciplinary approach bringing together anthropologists, geneticists and agronomists, this work shows the role of human societies in the geographic distribution and evolution of the genetic diversity of crop plants. Identifying the factors that shape biodiversity locally helps to preserve them better in the future. Furthermore, this confirms the influence of local practices and knowledge on the diversity of life, which is a central issue in the debate on the ownership and redistribution of benefits from the use of genetic resources.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Vanesse Labeyrie, Monique Deu, Adeline Barnaud, Caroline Calatayud, Marylène Buiron, Peterson Wambugu, Stéphanie Manel, Jean-Christophe Glaszmann, Christian Leclerc. Influence of Ethnolinguistic Diversity on the Sorghum Genetic Patterns in Subsistence Farming Systems in Eastern Kenya. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (3): e92178 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0092178

Cite This Page:

Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD). "Cultivating biodiversity: Sorghum example." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 September 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140902092957.htm>.
Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD). (2014, September 2). Cultivating biodiversity: Sorghum example. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140902092957.htm
Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD). "Cultivating biodiversity: Sorghum example." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140902092957.htm (accessed September 21, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

AP (Sep. 20, 2014) — The San Diego Zoo has welcomed two Cheetah cubs to its Safari Park. The nearly three-week-old female cubs are being hand fed and are receiving around the clock care. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) — Considered a "national heritage" in Belgium, chocolate now has a new museum in Brussels. In a former chocolate factory, visitors to the permanent exhibition spaces, workshops and tastings can discover derivatives of the cocoa bean. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) — The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

AP (Sep. 19, 2014) — A federal jury has convicted three people in connection with an outbreak of salmonella poisoning five years ago that sickened hundreds of people and was linked to a number of deaths. (Sept. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins