Trends and gaps in Enset (Ensete ventricosum (Welw.) Cheesman research
Enset is a multipurpose crop that supports the livelihood of 20 million people. Enset starch is also used for paper, textile, adhesive industries and pharmaceuticals in tablet formulation as a binder and disintegrant. However research and extension on the crop was given attention recently. It was only in the 1970s that enset research, begun focusing on enset clone collection, evaluation for food, fiber, and maintenance of germplasm. This was followed by agronomic studies on the effect of traditional management methods such as transplanting, spacing and leaf pruning on dry matter production, food production and harvest indices. Some ecophysiological studies revealed that drought tolerance in enset was attributed to osmotic adjustment and improved water extraction through altered biomass partitioning. Currently, serious attention is given to the threat of enset bacterial wilt to enset cultivation. Consequently, research activities on the use of medicinal plant extracts and other bio-control agents and methods against bacterial wilt pathogens, and selection of disease resistance varieties have been initiated through coordinated multidisciplinary research to alleviate the problem of enset bacterial wilt. Despite the relatively better research attention given to enset in the past two decades, as compared to the previous ones, there are still several research gaps that need to be addressed. It is recommended that establishing a national database on enset research with periodic bibliographic publication; creating a clone collection centre; developing a prioritized enset research agenda and creating a National Enset Research Institute is of paramount importance. This will ensure the sustainable production of the crop for food security, income generation, agroindustry development and environment sustainability.
Keywords/phrases: Agronomy, Ecophysiology, Enset bacterial wilt, Enset diversity, Osmotic adjustment