Agroforestry Systems

, Volume 87, Issue 5, pp 1065–1082 | Cite as

Fatty acid and tocopherol patterns of variation within the natural range of the shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa)

  • François AllalEmail author
  • Georges Piombo
  • Bokary A. Kelly
  • John B. L. Okullo
  • Massamba Thiam
  • Ousmane B. Diallo
  • George Nyarko
  • Fabrice Davrieux
  • Peter N. Lovett
  • Jean-Marc Bouvet


The shea tree, Vitellaria paradoxa, is one of the most economically and culturally important indigenous tree species in the Sudano-Sahelian region. Its seeds contain a vegetable fat, internationally known as shea butter, which is widely used in edible, cosmetic and pharmaceutical sectors. Based on samples from 456 trees distributed in 17 locations across the species natural range from Senegal to Uganda, the fatty acid and tocopherol variation, and its relationship with geographic and climatic variables, was assessed in order to address the pattern and the origin of this variation across the natural range. Significant differences between Western and Eastern regions for oleic, stearic acid, saturated–unsaturated acid ratio and γ-tocopherol were identified that it is postulated maybe a result of genetic drift due to the evolutionary history of shea tree populations. Within regions the difference among stands was significant for most constituents; however the major part of the variation was observed among trees within stand (53–90 %). Relationships with climatic variables were not verified, weakening evidence for clinal variation hypotheses suggested by previous studies.


Vitellaria paradoxa Shea butter Fatty acids Tocopherols Variability Climatic gradient Natural range 



This work forms one part of the tasks of the INCO project INNOVKAR funded by the European Union for ‘Innovative Tools and Techniques for Sustainable Use of the Shea Tree in Sudano-Sahelian zone’. Field activities including fruit collection and post-harvest treatments were conducted by B.A. Kelly (IER, Mali), J.B. Okullo (Makerere University, Uganda), M. Thiam (ISRA, Senegal), O.B. Diallo (CNRS, Burkina Faso), G. Nyarko (UDS, Ghana), A. Vaillant (CIRAD, France) and F. Allal (CIRAD-CRDPI). Experiments were carried out by F. Allal, G. Piombo, L. Millet and N. Forestier-Chiron at CIRAD laboratory in Montpellier, France.

F. Allal (CIRAD-CRDPI) led the writing in collaboration with J.-M. Bouvet (CIRAD, France) and P.N. Lovett (SFC, Ghana). All authors contributed in ideas and comments and revised manuscript versions. English revising was conducted by P.N. Lovett (SFC, Ghana).

Supplementary material

10457_2013_9621_MOESM1_ESM.jpg (2.9 mb)
Table S1 Comparison of Means between regions, sites and transects for all chemical traits studied. (XLS 59 kb)
10457_2013_9621_MOESM2_ESM.jpg (2.9 mb)
Table S2 Composition of the variance of each chemical constituent studied for different within different samplings: West region; East region; Mali transect; Ghana–Burkina transect. (XLS 24 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • François Allal
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Georges Piombo
    • 3
  • Bokary A. Kelly
    • 4
  • John B. L. Okullo
    • 5
  • Massamba Thiam
    • 6
  • Ousmane B. Diallo
    • 7
  • George Nyarko
    • 8
  • Fabrice Davrieux
    • 9
  • Peter N. Lovett
    • 10
  • Jean-Marc Bouvet
    • 1
  1. 1.Research Unit 108: Genetic Improvement and Adaptation of Mediterranean and Tropical Plants, Biological System Department, CIRADCampus International of BaillarguetMontpellier Cedex 5France
  2. 2.CRDPIPointe-NoireRepublic of the Congo
  3. 3.Research Unit IATE, Performance of Tropical Production and Processing Systems Department, CIRADMontpellier Cedex 2France
  4. 4.Institut d’Economie RuraleSikassoMali
  5. 5.Department of Forest Biology & Ecosystems Management, Faculty of Forestry and Nature ConservationMakerere UniversityKampalaUganda
  6. 6.Institut Sénégalais de la Recherche AgronomiqueCentre National de la Recherche ForestièreDakar-HannSénégal
  7. 7.INERA—Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique et Technologique 03OuagadougouBurkina Faso
  8. 8.Faculty of AgricultureUniversity For Development StudiesTamaleGhana
  9. 9.Research Unit QUALISUD, Performance of Tropical Production and Processing Systems Department, CIRAD, TA B-95/16 73Montpellier Cedex 5France
  10. 10.Product Development, The Savannah Fruits Company (SFC)Tamale, Northern RegionGhana

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