Bambara is one of many neglected and underutilized crop species in South Africa where the crop is mostly grown in the northern and eastern parts of the country by smallholder farmers either as an intercrop or a sole crop. Bambara groundnut is a completely balanced food containing sufficient quantities of proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, and amino acids. This crop is therefore a good complement in cereal-based diets and it can mitigate food security and nutritional problems in the country. Many people, particularly children in developing countries, do not have access to adequate animal protein because of its high cost. Legume crops such as Bambara are a cheaper source of protein, and it is one of such crops that can provide the much-needed protein and other important nutrients such as zinc and iron to low income groups of people in the country. Moreover, its resistance to the effects of climate change and its ability to yield reasonably well when grown in unfavourable environments, and without artificial fertilizers means that it is particularly suitable for the low-input agricultural production systems in the drought-prone regions where it is mostly grown. Bambara groundnuts out-yield other grain legume crops, such as groundnuts, in less favourable environments. As a legume crop, Bambara groundnut also improves soil health by fixing atmospheric nitrogen. Understanding the extent and nature of genetic diversity in Bambara groundnut over a wide range of agro-ecological zones in the country would help in the selection of potential parent lines for the improvement programme. The use of agro-morphological characterization, genotypic and nutritional biodiversity in the plant helps in the understanding of the genetic diversity and the interrelationships among the accessions. Little information is available regarding the biodiversity of Bambara groundnut research in the ARC and in the country as well. Currently, the ARC-VOP is working on the identification of superior accessions of Bambara groundnut for small scale and commercial production and to provide useful morphological, genotypic and nutritional biodiversity information on the germplasm. This will enable breeders to make informed choices of accessions for use in pre-breeding and breeding programmes in the ARC and in the country as a whole. The Bambara research project was started recently and showcases the ARC in the country, as well as in the world.

Potted Bambara groundnut plants
Bambara groundnut seeds

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