Changes in the diversity and geographic distribution of cultivated millet (Pennisetum glaucum (L.) R. Br.) and sorghum (Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench) varieties in Niger between 1976 and 2003

Abstract

Changes in the diversity of landraces in centres of diversity of cultivated plants need to be assessed in order to monitor and conserve agrobioversity—a key-element of sustainable agriculture. This notably applies in tropical areas where factors such as increased populations, climate change and shifts in cropping systems are hypothesized to cause varietal erosion. To assess varietal erosion of staple crops in a country subjected to various anthropogenic and natural environmental changes, we carried out a study based on a comparison of the diversity of pearl millet and sorghum varieties collected in 79 villages spanning the entire cereal-growing zone of Niger over a 26 year period (1976–2003). For these two crops, the number, name and type of varieties according to important traits for farmers were considered at different spatial scales (country, region, village) at the two collection dates. The results confirmed the high diversity of millet and sorghum varieties in Niger. No erosion of varietal diversity was noted on a national scale during the period covered. Some changes were observed but were limited to the geographical distribution of certain varieties. This highlights that farmers’ management can preserve the diversity of millet and sorghum varieties in Niger despite recurrent and severe drought periods and major social changes. It also indicates that rainfed cereal cropping systems in Niger should remain to be based on millet and sorghum, while reinforcing farmers’ seed systems.

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Acknowledgements

Hundreds of Nigerian farmers contributed to this study by providing seed samples and information on their millet and sorghum varieties. The success of surveys and collecting trips would not have been possible without the active participation of Moussa Tidjani (IRD), Djibo Moussa (IRD) and Hassane Yahaya Bissala (ICRISAT), and our drivers Hamza Guire (IRD) and Ousséïni Bouzou (ICRISAT). This research was carried out for the project “Changes in the diversity of cultivated millet and sorghum in Niger between 1976 and 2003: influence of natural and anthropogenic factors”, a response to the call for proposals “Biodiversity and global change” of the French Institute of Biodiversity (IFB). The financial grant was provided by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MAE) and the Ministry of Ecology and Sustainable Development (MEDD).

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Correspondence to Jean-Louis Pham.

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Bezançon, G., Pham, JL., Deu, M. et al. Changes in the diversity and geographic distribution of cultivated millet (Pennisetum glaucum (L.) R. Br.) and sorghum (Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench) varieties in Niger between 1976 and 2003. Genet Resour Crop Evol 56, 223–236 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10722-008-9357-3

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Keywords

  • Agrobiodiversity
  • Genetic erosion
  • Genetic resources
  • Germplasm collections
  • Landraces
  • Niger
  • Pearl millet
  • Pennisetum glaucum
  • Sorghum
  • Sub-Saharan Africa