, Volume 60, Issue 1, pp 71-76

Germplasm resources of Vitellaria paradoxa based on variations in fat composition across the species distribution range

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Abstract

The karité (Vitellaria paradoxa Gaertner) is an economically important African tree with significant but little studied variation across its broad distribution range. Differences in economically important fat characteristics were determined for 42 karité populations in 11 countries. The results showed very high variability in all measured parameters both within and between populations. Kernel fat content range is generally 20–50%. Fatty acid composition is dominated by stearic (25–50%) and oleic (37–62%) acids. The variable relative proportions of these two fatty acids produces major differences in karité butter consistency across the species distribution range. The principal triglycerides are stearic-oleic-stearic (13–46%) and stearic-oleic-oleic (16–31%). Ugandan karité fat is liquid and requires fractionation to obtain a butter. West African karité butter is more variable, with soft and hard consistencies produced within the same local populations. The hardest butters are produced on the Mossi Plateau in Burkina Faso and northern Ghana. The implications of distinctive population characteristics as germplasm resources for the chocolate and cosmetic industries are discussed.

This revised version was published online in November 2005 with corrections to the Cover Date.