Bambara Breeding Initiative (BBI)
Bambara groundnut. Photo credit: Prof Festo Massawe.
Bambara groundnut (Vigna subterranea) is an African species which has been cultivated across the continent for centuries in low input agricultural settings. The species’ common name originates from Bambara, a district on the upper Niger near Timbuctu. Bambara groundnut is part of the cultural and culinary heritage of African countries, and its taste is widely appreciated. It is also grown in Southeast Asia. It is adapted to a wide range of agroecological conditions. Since Bambara groundnut is both highly tolerant of drought and high temperatures and its grain is very nutritious, this species provides very good opportunities for climate change adaptation (1).
The major factor limiting the wider adoption of this crop is its low productivity. While reportedly, it can yield in the region of 4000 kg/ha when grown in a research station environment, the yield level attained by farmers working under marginal conditions is typically much lower. Other constraints include prolonged cooking time, susceptibility to pests and diseases and photoperiod sensitivity.
Bambara groundnut has been the focus of numerous studies over the last few decades and the potential of this crop for improved nutrition and for climate change adaptation has long been recognised. As a result, genetic resources have been characterised to varying degrees, and a range of molecular genetic tools have been developed. Therefore, the elements needed to develop an effective marker-assisted breeding (MAB) programme are already in place.
KT’s Bambara Breeding Iniative (BBI) was established in 2023 to address key constraints for this crop: low productivity, long cooking time and susceptibility to fungal disease.
(1) Mayes S et al., 2019. Bambara groundnut: an exemplar underutilised legume for resilience under climate change. Planta 250: 803-820.