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Domestication of Irvingia gabonensis: 1. Phenotypic variation in fruits and kernels in two populations from Cameroon

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Twenty four fruits from each of 52 Irvingia gabonensis trees from two villages (Nko'ovos II and Elig Nkouma) of the humid lowland forest zone of Cameroon (West Africa) were assessed to determine the extent of variation in ten fruit, nut (endocarp), and kernel (cotyledon) characteristics. Highly significant differences were found in fruit length (Range = 46.2 to 77.3 mm), fruit width (45.1 to 72.5 mm), flesh (mesocarp) depth (11.2 to 21.8 mm), fruit mass (44.5 to 195.4 g), kernel mass (0.54 to 6.9 g) and shell mass (5.4 to 18.6 g). In each of these traits there was continuous variation. Differences were also observed in fruit taste and fibrosity. The most frequent skin and flesh color was yellow (Methuen Color Code 4A8). Mean fruit length, fruit width, fruit mass, shell mass and kernel mass differed significantly between villages, but did not differ between different landuses (homegardens, cocoa farms, crop fields or fallows). These results represent the first quantitative assessment of tree-to-tree variation in fruit traits for this species and are discussed with regard to the domestication potential of I. gabonensis.

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