Development of a prioritised checklist of crop wild relatives for conservation in Malawi
The national increase in human population in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) demands for more food; while increase in the impact of climate change, demands for resilient agricultural production systems, and both call for improved agricultural productivity. Plant breeders will need adaptive traits to improve crop productivity and resilience. Crop wild relatives (CWR) have the potential to offer the much needed diversity for crop improvement, but their diversity is inadequately conserved. Lack of knowledge about their occurrence in Malawi, limits their systematic conservation and utilisation. Developing a CWR national inventory helps to define conservation priorities and actions. The objective of this study was to match checklists of crop genera and national flora, using their taxonomic and genetic relatedness information. This resulted into the first comprehensive annotated checklist of 446 CWR taxa in Malawi, which was prioritised by a set of criteria previously agreed with national stakeholders based on socio-economic importance of the related crop, potential use of the wild relative in crop improvement and threat status. The inventory comprises of 277 CWR taxa, identified as priority for conservation in Malawi; of which 78% were native. These belong to 56 genera and are related to 54 food, fodder, spices and beverage crops; and include taxa related to crops of regional and global importance. Eighty-seven taxa of highest priority for conservation were further identified, 12.6% of which have confirmed uses in crop improvement on pests and disease resistance, drought tolerance and yielding ability. The inventory will facilitate effective conservation and availability of these taxa for their use in crop improvement.
Key words: Annotated checklist, national inventory, systematic conservation