Tamarind, as a food, fodder and wood producing tree species, plays a very important socio-economical part in many of the rural communities of Western Africa. Nearly all components of the tree (leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds, wood, bark) are being traded on the local market and mean a source of food and income security for producers and their families. Despite the importance of the species, only very little and mostly poorly coordinated research has been carried out on the African continent. Wild and uncultivated trees are now continuously being exploited to meet the growing demands. In this way, the intraspecific diversity is put at risk, thereby threatening food production and ecosystem stability.
This research is complementary to the European project 'Domestication And Development Of Baobab And Tamarind' (DADOBAT), which aims to achieve a better and more complete exploitation of the possibilities of baobab (Adansonia digitata L.) and tamarind in Western Africa, by combining the results of different analyses in various scientific disciplines.
The purpose of our study is to contribute to the DADOBAT-project, mainly by characterization of the current genetic and phenotypic diversity of tamarind and by facilitating the selection of the most suitable varieties for domestication and cultivation. Mali was selected as the study area.
During a first project phase, observational research was carried out on ten tamarind populations, distributed over different climatic zones in Mali. Some morphological and chemical tree, leaf and fruit variables were measured and analyzed to determine the phenotypic diversity of the species, within and between populations and climatic zones.
For the genetic analyses, STR (Simple Tandem Repeat) markers are being developed. By means of these markers, the genetic relationships between trees and populations will be elucidated. In that way identification of the possible landraces and characterization of the current genetic diversity of the species in Mali will be obtained. The results of both the phenotypic and the genetic part of the study will serve as a reference for the development of conservation strategies and as a starting point for the selection of useful traits for domestication programs.
In a second phase the ecophysiological, chemical and growth response to drought stress will be determined for the landraces or ecotypes, identified in the former research phase. The resulting knowledge can facilitate the selection of the most drought resistant ecotypes for domestication in dry regions, where food provision and ecosystem stability are threatened the most.