Towards enhancement of B-carotene content of high dry mass sweetpotato genotypes in Zambia.
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The enrichment of B-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, in the local sweetpotato (Ipomoea batatas L.) cultivars is an attractive option in order to improve vitamin A intake in Zambia. The study was conducted to: 1) identify sweetpotato genotypes high in B-carotene content and high root dry mass (RDM) and to determine their combining ability, as measured through their progeny performance; and 2) screen progeny for root characteristics, yield, B-carotene content, and RDM. Firstly, a participatory rural appraisal (PRA) was conducted to determine the consumer preferences for sweetpotato. These preferences would form the basis for selecting desirable genotypes. Secondly, five selected parents were crossed in a full diallel for genetic variance studies. A selected subset of the diallel progeny were evaluated in three environments. Thirdly, 15 polycross progeny were evaluated for stability in five environments using additive main effect and multiplicative interaction (AMMI). The PRA revealed that consumers preferred high RDM combined with high fresh root yield. The diallel crosses recorded significant general combining ability (GCA) and specific combining ability (SCA) effects for B-carotene, RDM, harvest index (HI) and root fresh yield (RFY). The ratios of GCA to SCA variances were large (0.68-0.92). Two high B-carotene parents exhibited positive high GCA effects, indicating that additive gene effects were predominant in the inheritance of B-carotene. Reciprocal mean squares were not significant for RDM but they were significant (p=0.01) for B-carotene content. The estimate of narrow sense heritability of RDM (76.3%) was high; but heritability of B-carotene (20.9%), HI (29.1%) and RFY (34.9%) were much lower. These results suggest that rapid genetic gains should be possible with mass selection breeding techniques based on the phenotype of the parent for RDM but progress will be slow for B-carotene content HI, and RFY. The AMMI analysis identified progeny G2 (B-carotene content = 5.0 mg 100 g-1 and RDM = 37%), G6 (B-carotene content = 4.7 mg 100 g-1 and RDM = 37%), and G8 (B-carotene content = 4.7 mg 100 g-1, RDM = 35%) from the polycross as stable across environments for both B-carotene content and RDM. Genotype G3 was best suited to one of the test environments and had the highest B-carotene content (9.421 mg 100 g-1) and a high RDM (35.47%).
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