Fonio (Digitaria spp.) Breeding

  • Suleiman Dangana Abdul
  • Afam I. O. JideaniEmail author


Fonio, Digitaria exilis (Kippist) Stapf and Digitaria iburua Stapf, is a hardy crop grown in West Africa. It is a staple food in some parts of the region with excellent nutritional and culinary properties. It contains high quality vitamins, minerals, fiber, and sulfur-containing methionine and cysteine. The crop originated in present-day Guinea and Mali. It is an annual plant growing to a height of 80 cm (D. exilis) or 150 cm (D. iburua). It is a free-tillering C4 plant, with slender and glabrous culms and a life cycle of 70150 days. Fonio is mainly cultivated on marginal soils, and soils containing aluminum. Fonio is cultivated at 4001500 m elevation, at 2530 °C and annual rainfall 1503000 mm. The crop is drought tolerant, and mostly cultivated by traditional methods that make harvesting and threshing labor intensive. The crop is faced with challenges that include; poor yields (≤ 500 kg/ha), seed shattering, plant lodging, small grain size, fungal diseases and infestation by the parasitic weed Striga rowlandi. The cultivated species are allotetraploids (2n = 4x = 36). The landraces from farmers’ selection show polymorphism in their morphological, reproductive, yield and molecular-marker characteristics that can be used in marker-assisted selection for crop improvement. Fonio grain is consumed in the form of porridges, fonio jollof, flour creams or used to prepare salads, couscous, stews, candy and alcoholic/non-alcoholic beverages. Fonio and its products are good for diabetics and celiacs. The ecological versatility of fonio has enormous potential as one of the crops that guarantee food security in the future.


Acha Biotechnology Digitaria exilis Digitaria iburua Food security Fonio Production Molecular breeding 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesAbubakar Tafawa Balewa UniversityBauchiNigeria
  2. 2.Plant Food Processing for Bio-economy Research Group, Department of Food Science and Technology, Partnerships & Internationalisation Champion, Faculty of AgricultureUniversity of VendaThohoyandouSouth Africa

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