Utilizing the genome of the vegetable species Cleome gynandra (spider plant) for the development of improved cultivars for the West and East African markets
A. Popular summary
Spider plant is a traditional leafy vegetable with a great potential for improving health and nutrition in Africa. The project aims to develop high-yielding and nutrient-rich spider plant cultivars considering the expectations of farmers and consumers in Benin and Kenya. The project specifically addresses three research questions : 1-How can the diversity of spider plant be used to improve its yield, nutritional value and resistance to drought?, 2-What are the adequate cultivation practices for optimal and sustainable production of the species? and 3-How can researchers and value chain stakeholders efficiently collaborate for successful impact of the breeding program?
A germplasm of accessions was established and exploited in a genome-assisted breeding approach which involved the users of the species of Benin and Kenya. Traditional knowledge related to use and management of the species was documented in both countries and integrated into production and promotion strategies. Experiments were conducted to establish the best agricultural practices for the species and phenotypic and metabolomics characterization were done in controlled conditions. Spider plant genotypes were re-sequenced to facilitate molecular breeding strategies. New adapted cultivars will be created and technologies to grow and distribute them effectively will be developed to improve access to healthy diet.
B. Final research findings
- Spider plant is an important leafy vegetable for local communities in Benin and Kenya which contributes to livelihoods and diets but is also used as a medicinal plant.
- The species is easily self- and cross-pollinated which provide several options for cultivar development.
- Spider plant seeds are dormant and a germination protocol was developed.
- The best agronomic practices were developed and improved the species cultivation and its introduction into urban and periurban market garden systems.
- The variability in nutrient content (e.g. vitamin C, pro-vitamin A, glucosinolates, flavonoids) and morphology in the species was assessed and is associated with the geographic origin of accessions.
- Genomic resources including molecular markers and quantitative trait loci were generated and will accelerate the development of nutritious and high yielding cultivars.
- Pests and diseases associated with the species were inventoried.
- A protocol for a systematic evaluation of Spider plant’s drought tolerance was developed in collaboration with farmers.
- One PhD student, seven MSc students and one BSc student were trained as a significant impact on capacity building for the crop promotion.
C. Final outcomes achieved
In Benin, spider plant was known by several rural communities as a medicinal and food plant. The Adja communities in the southern region of the country use to cultivate and sell the species in their local markets. However, in urban areas the species was less known. With the project, 20 farmers in urban and peri-urban areas started cultivating the spider plant and the demand in the species is increasing. In addition, it is now included in the diet of more than 200 urban households which are part of the Community-Supported Agriculture system established by the NGO Hortitechs Developpement and a network of farmers. Some local food enterprises including Agridynamic and Sahel Ltd. are interested in processing the leaves. There is a growing demand in spider plant in urban areas. More people are aware of the nutritional and medicinal qualities of the plant and integrate it into their eating habits.
D. Messages to:
Actors from private sector
- The private sector needs to seize the business opportunities offered by neglected African crops. They have a lot to gain in investing in spider plant value chain development given the many nutritive and medicinal properties of the plant.
Civil society and practitioners organisations
- Civil society (users, consumers, farmers) must intervene at all stages of the selection process so that their preferential traits can be considered and the research results can be profitable to them.
- Our research revealed several health benefits associated with spider plant consumption and farmers and consumers are invited to adopt the species. Moreover, civil society has an important role to play in disseminating the generated knowledge on spider plant.
- African national policies must promote neglected African crops by providing financial and administrative facilities.
- We invite the Ministry of Agriculture and other institutions involved agricultural policy, making in Benin and Africa in general to invest more in neglected crops with economic and nutritional potential.
E. Knowledge products:
- A roadmap for breeding orphan leafy vegetable species: a case study of Gynandropsis gynandra (Cleomaceae)
- Enhancing growth and leaf yield in Gynandropsis gynandra (L.) Briq. (Cleomaceae) using agronomic practices to accelerate crop domestication
- Drivers of Management of Spider Plant (Gynandropsis gynandra) Across Different Socio-linguistic Groups in Benin and Togo
- Andromonoecy in Gynandropsis gynandra (L.) Briq. (Cleomaceae) and effects on fruit and seed production
F. Knowledge networks
The project was conducted by researchers from the Biosystematics Group of Wageningen University, the Faculty of Agronomic Sciences of the University of Abomey-Calavi (FSA/UAC), the African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC),the World Vegetable Center, as well as farmers and consumers in Benin and Kenya, respectively, collaborating with the NGO Hortitechs Developpement and the Kenyan Resource Centre for Indigenous Knowledge (KENRIK). Beyond the project, project members at FSA and AOCC contributed to setting up the African training and research mobility program MoBreed focused on African orphan crops breeding with two MSc and two PhD students conducting their research on spider plant breeding. During the first African Plant Breeders Association Conference held in Accra (Ghana) from October 23th to 25th,, 2019, a communication was made on the topic “Omics-assisted breeding for nutritional value in the orphan vegetable spider plant [Gynandropsis gynandra L. (Briq)]” by Deedi Sogbohossou, PhD student at Wageningen University and funded by the project. Carlos Houdegbe, PhD student and Jelila Blalogoe, former MSc student, both of MoBreed at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa presented a poster on “Quantitative analysis of leaf yield and related traits in Gynandropsis gynandra” and “Germination and dormancy in seeds of five Gynandropsis gynandra genotypes and their crosses”, respectively.
G. Knowledge co-creation
The project is based on a multi-stakeholders approach for knowledge generation and dissemination. End-users of developed spider plant cultivars including farmers, consumers and vendors were involved at the early stages of the project and actively participated to the definition of the product target (high-yielding and late flowering cultivars with regrowth capacity after cutting). During germplasm characterization, farmers and consumers were invited to assess the variability observed on-farm and re-define breeding objectives. At that step they also put emphasis on other criteria related to taste and odour of the leaves. Farmers are actively working for promotion of the species in urban and peri-urban vegetable production in Benin and Kenya. Results obtained from various research activities have been published. Other research projects are on-going, including quantitative analysis of leaf yield and related traits for speeding up improved cultivars development in multiple environments, and understanding quantitative traits underlying pigmentation and trichomes density in the species.
H. Consortium partners
|· NGO Hortitechs Developpement – Benin||· Wageningen University and Research – The Netherlands|
|· Faculty of Agronomic Sciences, University of Abomey-Calavi – Benin||· African Orphan Crops Consortium – Kenya|
|· Kenyan Centre for Indigenous Knowledge (KENRIK) – Kenya||· World Vegetable Center (AVRDC) – Taiwan|
Contact person : Prof Enoch G. Achigan-Dako, Faculty of Agronomic Sciences, University of Abomey-Calavi