Morphological Characterization of Vine Spinach (Basella Alba l. and Rubra l.) in Western Kenya
Vine spinach is an important African leafy vegetable in Western Kenya. It is highly nutritious and is a good source of Vitamins A and C, calcium, iron and potassium. It is also source of income for farmers and traders especially women who market indigenous vegetables. It is also valued for its medicinal properties as its shoots can be used as a diuretic or laxative, and to treat boils and sores. The roots can be used to treat diarrhea. However, it is regarded as a rare or lost vegetable or orphan crop as far as breeding improvement is concerned in Kenya. There are no reports of hybrids in cultivation or in the wild for in the world. This needs to be addressed to for proper utilization of this crop as well as to avoid of different genotypes. Genetic augmentation of any crop begins with the assessment of genetic diversity in the area using morphological descriptors. The objective of this study was therefore to characterize various types of vine spinach in an effort to assess the genetic diversity found in Kisii County of Western Kenya. General descriptors such as colour of the leaf, petiole, stem and flower; stem shape; growth habit were used to identify various morphotypes. Leaf length and width were also measured. Statistical analysis for leaf length and width was done using analysis of variance (ANOVA) and means were separated using Fisher’s Least Significant Difference (LSD). Statistical package used was GENSTAT. Morphotypes were identified using descriptors found in literature. Five vine spinach morphotypes were identified. These belonged to Basella alba and Basella rubra. Data obtained can be used by breeders their efforts to come up with high yielding morphotypes (that are well adapted to local ecological conditions) to supply to farmers.
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