Flagship 1: Tree genetic resources


Tree domestication to enhance products and services

A woman stands beside an allanblackia tree, which can provide an edible oil and increase the incomes of farmers. Photo by C. Pye-Smith/ICRAF

The objectives of production and/or environmental service provision, and the determination of priority tree species to target for domestication require an inclusive approach with a wide range of stakeholders along the value chain. FTA develops the procedures that can be applied to undertake this species prioritization in different contexts, as well as within the prioritized species, identifying the traits to focus on. Research gives full attention to the involvement of women and youth in setting values, species priorities and traits for selection, particularly for tree foods that have a clear role in supporting family nutrition and the incomes of women.

FTA also analyzes the utility of different methods, including advanced genomic and participatory approaches for tree domestication, and finds out which methods work best in which context and for different objectives (such as to enhance production, increase profitability, improve farm-level resilience or better support landscape restoration). The full engagement of women in participatory domestication approaches and in business opportunities in value addition is supported through testing approaches that address the structural constraints that limit their participation. FTA provides a small range of well-worked pilot examples of domestication pathways that can serve as models for other tree species in similar contexts. FTA also provides a range of guidelines, training tools, online databases and maps to support tree domestication, which through promotion networks spread best practices globally.

Domestication covers the processes involved in bringing new trees into cultivation, as well as in the further enhancement of cultivation of trees already on the domestication pathway. This involves genetic selection, may involve formal breeding, and includes research to understand a tree’s biology, in order to effectively propagate and manage it.

From a genetic perspective, the level of improvement that is possible through selection and/or breeding depends on the trait for improvement, the way the tree is propagated, and the production context and method of evaluation. Genetic gains can be high for trees because of their large gene pools and their limited (or no previous) histories of domestication. High variation in yield and food quality is, for example, observed in indigenous food trees such as Allanblackia species in Africa.

Domestication work in FTA is linked to support for value chain development: for instance, through the development of a novel public–private collaborative platform to support domestication and market integration that has involved FTA and a wide range of partners, oil from the seed of the Allanblackia tree has now been incorporated into margarine production in Europe.

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