Agroforestry Systems

, Volume 82, Issue 1, pp 87–97 | Cite as

Phenotypic variation of baobab (Adansonia digitata L.) fruit traits in Mali

  • S. De Smedt
  • K. Alaerts
  • A. M. Kouyaté
  • P. Van Damme
  • G. Potters
  • R. Samson


We analyzed the phenotypic variation of baobab (Adansonia digitata L.) fruits from Mali to define the domestication potential of this species. 269 trees, selected from 10 provenances distributed along a rainfall gradient, were characterized. Five fruits were sampled from each tree. Total individual fruit weight was partitioned into shell, pulp, and seed weight. Ratios were calculated between pulp + seed and total weight, and between pulp and seed weight. For all the measured fruit traits, we detected significant differences between provenances, as well as between trees from the same provenance. Assuming that the measured traits are under genetic control, the latter facts indicate that there are considerable opportunities for tree selection on a local scale. However, candidate plus trees with specific properties, e.g., extremely high pulp or seed weight, were found only in some locations. Mean pulp yield per fruit might be considerably increased by selecting the 5% trees with the highest pulp weight (mean: 45 ± 1 g, best 5%: >100 g). The same might be true for seed production (mean: 71 ± 2 g, best 5%: >150 g). Also the ratio between pulp and seed weight can be an important fruit characteristic for selection: in fruits with a low ratio, relatively more pulp sticks to the seeds when separating the two fruit parts by grinding, and thus more pulp will be lost for further processing. We identified several trees with a high pulp weight combined with a high ratio between pulp and seed weight. It is concluded that there is considerable phenotypic variability in traits of baobab fruit in Mali, offering opportunities for cultivar selection.


Domestication Indigenous fruit trees Parklands Tree products 



The authors would like to thank the technicians from the Institute of Rural Economy in Mali (IER) for their practical help, as well as farmers and local village chiefs for their assistance with identification of trees in the field and for the permission to work in their villages. Also the help of Hilde Vanderstappen with the fruit characterization and of Karen Wuyts with the artwork is highly appreciated. This article was written while the first two authors held scholarships from the Agency for Innovation by Science and Technology in Flanders (IWT). The authors would also like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. De Smedt
    • 1
  • K. Alaerts
    • 1
  • A. M. Kouyaté
    • 2
  • P. Van Damme
    • 3
  • G. Potters
    • 1
  • R. Samson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Bioscience Engineering, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of AntwerpAntwerpenBelgium
  2. 2.Institute of Rural Economy, Forestry Resources ProgramSikassoMali
  3. 3.Laboratory of Tropical and Subtropical Agronomy and Ethnobotany, Faculty of Bioscience EngineeringUniversity of GhentGhentBelgium

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