Repository logo

Breeding bambara groundnut (vigna subterranea (L.) verdc) for enhanced yield and nutritional quality in South Africa.

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Bambara groundnut (Vigna subterranea (L.) Verdc.; 2n= 2x = 22) is a nutrient-dense grain legume cultivated in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and Asia. The current food systems in tropical and subtropical regions depend on the cultivation and use of a few commodity crop species. This causes most indigenous crop species, such as Bambara groundnut, to remain neglected by researchers and underutilised in the value chains. Underutilised crop species have received limited research and development attention from researchers and policymakers, and hence, their economic value, production methods, seed enterprises, product development and commercialisation are not yet fully explored. Due to a lack of systematic genetic improvement, the yield of most underutilised crops is low (<0.85 ton ha-1) and stagnant. Unlocking Bambara groundnut’s economic and value-adding potential as an essential multipurpose food and cash crop will enhance food and nutritional security in developing countries. Research on Bambara groundnut in South Africa is relatively peripheral and there are no known improved varieties of this crop with high yield and nutritional quality. Therefore, specific objectives of this study were: (1) to document the progress made on Bambara groundnut production, utilisation and genetic improvement in SSA to discern the key production constraints, genetic resources and analysis, breeding methods and gains on yield and nutrition to guide breeding; (2) to assess them genotype-by-environment interaction (GEI) effect on grain yield and to select best adapted Bambara groundnut genotypes in South African target production areas for breeding; (3) to determine the compositions of phytochemicals and mineral elements present in Bambara groundnut genetic pool to identify superior and contrasting genotypes to guide product development and breeding; (4) to determine the magnitude of the genetic diversity and population structure of Bambara groundnut collections of South Africa using high throughput single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) markers to complement phenotypic and nutrition profile data for genotype selection and breeding; and (5) to determine the combining ability effects and gene action conditioning yield and related traits in Bambara groundnut genotypes to identify the best combiner donor parents and progenies for genetic advancement, cultivar development and release. The first part of the study reviewed progress on Bambara groundnut production, utilisation and genetic improvement in SSA. The study presented key production constraints, genetic resources and analysis, breeding methods and genetic gains on yield and nutritional quality. Modern crop management, production technologies, and value chains are yet to be developed in Africa to achieve economic gains from Bambara groundnut production and marketing. Improved crop management and post-harvest handling technologies, modern varieties with high yield and nutritional quality, value addition and market access are among the key considerations in current and future Bambara groundnut research and development programs. Information presented will guide sustainable production and effective crop breeding to pursue food and nutrition security and improved livelihoods through Bambara groundnut enterprises. In the second chapter of the study, 75 Bambara groundnut genotypes were evaluated across seven selected environments using a 5 x 15 alpha lattice design with three replications. The study revealed significant (p<0.05) differences among genotypes (G), environments (E) and GEI effects on grain yield. A high proportion of the observed variation was due to GEI (36.62%), followed by environment (35.63%) and genotype (24.16%) effects. Grain yield across environments ranged from 1.4 ton ha-1 for ARC Bamb-68 to 0.10 ton ha-1 for ARC Bamb-74. Genotype ARC Bamb-68 (0.96 ton ha-1), ARC Bamb-9 (0.88 ton ha-1) and ARC Bamb-54 (0.84 ton ha-1) attained the highest grain yield across locations, while ARC Bamb-74 exhibited the lowest grain yield of 0.16 ton ha-1. The genotype and genotype-by-environment biplot identified ARC Bamb-17, ARC Bamb-14, ARC Bamb-20, ARC Bamb-18, ARC Bamb-14, and ARC Bamb-26 as the most stable genotypes across locations, while ARC Bamb-18 and ARC Bamb-54 were specifically adapted to Loskop and Brits. The Mafikeng site was ideal for Bambara groundnut evaluation, genotype differentiation, and large-scale seed production. The selected genotypes with high grain yields and stability are valuable genetic resources as breeding parents for Bambara groundnut improvement in South Africa. In the third chapter of the study, 75 genetically diverse Bambara groundnut genotypes were field evaluated across four environments using a 15 x 5 alpha lattice design with three replications during the 2020-2021 cropping season. Genotypes were profiled for fat, phenolic and flavonoids contents at the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) analytical laboratory in South Africa. Further, the genotypes were assessed for the contents of the following minerals: calcium (Ca), iron (Fe), potassium (K), phosphorus (P), zinc (Zn) and nitrogen (N). The nutritional content of the test genotypes varied significantly (P<0.05), which were affected by the genotype and environment interactions. The Ca, Fe, K and Zn content varied from 150.70 to 216.53, 4.30 to 16.77, 771.99 to 1155.89 and 5.50 to 7.17 mg.100 g−1 dry seed sample, respectively. Genotypes, including ARC Bamb-2, ARC Bamb-19, ARC Bamb-73, ARC Bamb-56, ARC Bamb-37, ARC Bamb-3 and ARC Bamb-69 exhibited the highest fat content (>6.00 %). ARC Bamb-40 and ARC Bamb-59 recorded a higher mean Fe content of 16.00 mg.100 g−1. ARC Bamb-2 was the top-performing genotype with high fat content (6%), Ca (211.93 mg.100 g−1), and Zn (7.17 mg.100 g−1 ). Ca, K, and N contents displayed strong correlations (r>0.60, P<0.05). Phosphorus and Zn contents exhibited moderate correlations with Ca. Overall, the study selected genotypes ARC Bamb-73, ARC Bamb-19, ARC Bamb-9 and ARC Bamb-2 with high compositions of essential nutrients for product development or breeding. The selected genetic resources are valuable for trait integration and developing new breeding populations with enhanced nutrient compositions and agronomic and market-preferred traits. In the fourth part of the study, the magnitude of the genetic diversity and population structure of South Africa Bambara groundnut collections was determined using high throughput single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) markers. Ninety-three genotypes were genotyped with 2286 SNP markers and phenotyped with some unique complementary morpho-agronomic traits of the crop. The mean genetic diversity value was 0.32, revealing moderate genetic differences among the assessed genotypes. Cluster and structure analyses grouped the tested genotypes into two distinct categories. Further, the analysis of molecular variance partitioned the total genetic variation into among genotypes (90%), within genotypes (8%) and among populations (2%). The results revealed two heterotic groups for hybridisation and selection programs. The following unique genotypes were selected: ARC Bamb-37 (with spreading growth type), ARC Bamb-49 (bunch type), ARC Bamb-61 (semi-bunch) and ARC Bamb-83 (spreading) using the SNP markers and desirable agronomic traits. The study provided new insight on Bambara groundnut genetic profiles of South African collections, which will assist in conservation strategy and management of the crop for effective breeding. The final part of the study assessed combining ability effects and gene action conditioning yield and related traits in Bambara groundnut genotypes to identify the best combiner donor parents and progenies for genetic advancement and breeding. Ten contrasting parents were selected and crossedusing a 10 × 10 half-diallel mating design, and 45 progenies developed. The progenies and their parents were field evaluated using a 5 × 11 alpha lattice design with two replications in two contrasting locations in South Africa. Data was collected on agronomic traits and subjected to statistical analyses to compute genetic parameters. Genotype × location interaction effect was significant (P < 0.05) for the studied agronomic traits. General combining ability (GCA) and specific combining ability (SCA) effects were significant in most assessed agronomic traits, including yield per plant. The GCA × location and SCA × location interaction effects were significant for most traits. A Baker’s ratio of < 1 were recorded for most assessed traits, indicating the preponderance of non-additive gene effects conditioning the traits. The parental lines such as ARC Bamb-25, ARC Bamb-8 and ARC Bamb-55 recorded positive and desirable GCA effects for yield per plant. The progenies ARC25×ARC8, ARC44×ARC9 and ARC6×ARC9 had desirable SCA effects for yield per plant, ARC44×ARC8, ARC44×ARC68, ARC42×ARC8 for higher number of secondary branches per stem, ARC25 ×ARC8 for early maturity, ARC42×ARC55 for higher number of pods per plant and ARC42 ×ARC57 for increased seed width. The new families selected in the current study are useful breeding populations and will be subjected to selection and multilocation evaluation to release the best-performing varieties. Overall, the present study appraised the present production constraints, genetic resources and analysis, breeding methods and genetic gains on yield and nutritional quality to guide future breeding. Moreover, new Bambara groundnut breeding populations were developed with enhanced yield and nutritional compositions for genetic advancement and multilocation selection for variety release and adoption in South Africa.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.