African nightshades

Genetic, biochemical and metabolite diversity of an underutilised indigenous leafy vegetable and its potential for plant breeding

authored by
Regina Ronoh, Noella A. Ekhuya, Marcus Linde, Traud Winkelmann, Mary Abukutsa-Onyango, Fekadu Fufa Dinssa, Thomas Debener

African nightshades are becoming more important as leafy vegetables in sub-Saharan Africa. Previously considered as food for the poor, their cultivation is now being promoted, and some cultivars are commercialised; however, most farmers use self-produced seeds, leading to low and varying yields. Improvement through conventional breeding depends on the available genetic diversity, the possible breeding systems, and the nutritional value of the accessions. Therefore, we review the information on these topics with the following main outcomes: the most commonly discussed species, S. nigrum, S. scabrum, S. villosum, and S. americanum, could be differentiated using molecular markers, but further sub-clustering was rarely possible, and statistical support often missing. S. nigrum and S. scabrum seem to be most closely related to each other. The mainly self-pollinating African nightshades form a polyploidy series with diploid (2n = 2x = 24) to hexaploid taxa. Interploidy hybridisations between diploids and tetraploids are possible, whereas the hexaploid S. nigrum and S. scabrum could not be crossed to genotypes of lower ploidies. Solanine, solamargine, solasonine, and chaconine are the major steroidal alkaloid glucosides in African nightshades. Amounts are age and environment dependant. Mineral and vitamin contents in leaves are at least as high as in Brassica oleracea or Spinacia oleracea, underlining their relevance as local vegetables.

Institute of Plant Genetics
Institute of Horticultural Production Systems
External Organisation(s)
Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology
World Vegetable Center
Review article
Journal of Horticultural Science and Biotechnology
No. of pages
Publication date
Publication status
Peer reviewed
ASJC Scopus subject areas
Genetics, Horticulture
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