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Evidence of early genetic variation in survival and growth traits of baobab (Adansonia digitata L.)—the way forward for domestication and breeding

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The results of a Adansonia digitata provenance and clone trials situated in Sadore (Niger) and Samanko (Mali) indicate genetic variation at both provenance level and among clones. There were significant differences among provenances at Sadore in both survival and height by age 10. Differences in survival were very marked, and suggest that provenances ranged from very poorly- to well-adapted to the Samanko site. However, height was weakly and negatively correlated to survival; possibly the trees may have grown slightly taller because of less competition. West African provenances have a tendency towards faster growth than those of East African origin, and the provenances from drier locations tend to be better adapted. While early variation among 4 year-old clones of leaf development, an important production trait, was indicated, future observations at later ages on fruit traits will be required to make valid selection decisions. The reported 10 year-old provenance variation in tree survival and growth suggest valuable gains could be made by selection of the best provenances. Further trials across a wider range of sites, representative of target planting sites are recommended. Both genebanks contain valuable genetic plant materials worth maintaining for further research and development.

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