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Diversity and improvement of African traditional vegetable Cleome gynandra L.; understanding agronomic and nutritional traits

Principal Supervisor: Dr Charlotte Allender, School of Life Sciences

Non-academic partner: Tozer Seeds Ltd

Project Title: Diversity and improvement of African traditional vegetable Cleome gynandra L.; understanding agronomic and nutritional traits

University of registration: University of Warwick

Project outline:

Cleome or spiderplant (Cleome gynandra) is a member of the Brassicales order cultivated as a vegetable across Eastern Africa. Like many traditional vegetables it has not been the target of formal crop improvement programmes and exhibits high phenotypic diversity across its range. Cleome is nutritionally beneficial, with high levels of calcium, vitamin C, beta carotene and folic acid being reported, giving it a clear role in improving the nutritional value of the diets of consumers. It is often cultivated by smallholder farmers both for direct consumption and to sell to markets. The benefits of high quality cleome seed are obvious for both farmers and consumers in Africa, however it is possible that genotypes can be identified and developed which are suitable for cultivation at higher latitudes too. This would represent a novel niche leafy vegetable crop of potential interest to UK consumers and commercial breeders and growers. A better understanding of diversity in the global genepool of C. gynandra would aid crop improvement for both African growers and consumers and those interested in developing the crop for production in the UK.

The project will involve the assembly of a diverse range of cleome germplasm for genotypic and phenotypic assessment, the identification of accessions of particular interest and the development of pre-breeding research resources. Sources of germplasm will include genebanks in Kenya and Uganda as well as the collections held by AVRDC (WorldVeg). The project will phenotype the accessions used at Warwick and at the industrial partner A L Tozer Ltd. Inter and intra-population diversity will be assessed using appropriate marker systems such as Genotyping by Sequencing. The project will also make use of genome sequence information when this becomes publicly available (such as that arising from the African Orphan Crops Consortium, an international network aiming to provide genomic resources for neglected African crops). Phenotypic traits to be investigated will include flowering behaviour, pigmentation and aspects of nutritional composition. The pattern and stability of these traits will be investigated across generations. Phenotyping will be carried out in a glasshouse and polytunnel environment in the UK. Agronomic performance will also be monitored and lines will be developed from accessions for interest for further work, including the production of one or more mapping populations. The mapping populations can then be used to develop markers for traits of interest, and to identify the locations of loci associated with these traits.

Closing date for applications: 27th April 2018.

Interview dates: TBC

Check eligibilty and apply