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Current availability of seed material of enset (Ensete ventricosum, Musaceae) and its Sub-Saharan wild relatives


Crop wild relatives are an important source of new genetic diversity for plant breeding and crop improvement. Enset (Ensete ventricosum) is mainly cultivated as a multipurpose crop in Ethiopia, supplying food to 13 million people. To improve the agronomic traits of enset clonal lines, sexual propagation can be of key importance, in particular crossbreeding landraces with populations of undomesticated Ensete wild relatives. We investigated the availability of stored seed material of the enset genepool represented by three African Ensete species (E. homblei, E. livingstonianum, E. ventricosum) in gene bank facilities across the world, and also the possibility to obtain freshly collected, undried seed material for conservation and research purposes. We queried the main plant genetic resources databases and contacted 27 gene and seed banks, research centres and several individual researchers. Only one seed bank seemed to hold a seed accession of only one of the three species, E. ventricosum (Millennium Seed Bank of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew). Available seed accessions of the other two species (E. homblei, E. livingstonianum) do not seem to exist. The lack of stored seed material of the three Ensete species and the difficulties in obtaining fresh seeds make it impossible to use seeds for breeding and crop improvement. We consider the existing seed conservation measures of the enset crop and its wild relatives as insufficient. A collection, research and ex situ conservation programme targeting Sub-Saharan Ensete seeds is needed considering the potential value of these species for food security across Africa.

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The authors would like to thank Ruth Eastwood for her help in searching the databases, Thomas Abeli, Luigi Guarino and two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Jonas V. Müller.

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Guzzon, F., Müller, J.V. Current availability of seed material of enset (Ensete ventricosum, Musaceae) and its Sub-Saharan wild relatives. Genet Resour Crop Evol 63, 185–191 (2016).

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  • Crop wild relatives
  • Ensete
  • Ex situ conservation
  • Food security
  • Germplasm
  • Plant breeding
  • Seeds