Morphological diversity of Kenyan papaya germplasm
Papaya is one of the major fruit crops of the tropical regions of the world. It shows considerable phenotypic variation in morphological and horticultural traits that can be utilized in its genetic improvement. In Kenya, wide range of papaya germplasm exists and has not been characterized. Therefore, there is difficulty in differentiating the papaya accessions in the different regions of Kenya. Characterization of papaya germplasm is normally accomplished by use of morphological descriptors, hence as a first step, a germplasm collection from within Kenya was gathered and its morphological diversity was assessed. The papaya germplasm was collected from Coast, Nyanza, Western, Rift Valley, Eastern and Central provinces of Kenya and characterized in the field using morphological descriptors based on fruit, flower, stem and leaf characteristics. The morphological characters were recorded and
morphological data from sixty accessions were submitted to principal component and Neighbor- Joining cluster analysis. Accessions from Coastal, Western, Rift Valley and Nyanza provinces showed the widest morphological diversity with those from Eastern and Central provinces showing the least diversity. Fruit shape, fruit diameter, tree habit, leaf size and flower color showed the greatest variation in principal component analysis. The high diversity observed within the accessions points to ample possibilities of obtaining desirable trait combinations in specific cultivars.
Keywords: Kenya, papaya, germplasm, morphological characterization