Over the years, farmers in Africa have picked a commercial interest in the indigenous species and such a trend is on an optimistic rise. Solanum aethiopicum, locally known as Nakati and or Ntula, is an African indigenous vegetables that fall in the category of Neglected and Under Utilized Crops (NUC). They are widely consumed in Sub Saharan Africa and contribute to improving nutrition in children, and income security especially for youth and women. The species is nutritionally and commercially very important especially among the children/youth/women and the peri-urban communities in Uganda, and many other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
With the increasing demand for indigenous vegetables in the region and Uganda, S.aethiopicum production has potential to significantly contribute to household incomes for those engaging in its production. It is a short cycle plant maturing in 8 weeks under optimal water conditions). Whereas there is demonstrable demand for vegetables, current production is low, owing to a number of ecological (weather changes, mainly drought), production (poor quality varieties and seed, pests and diseases, soil infertility, postharvest deterioration etc.)
The ultimate aim of our research is to provide African farmers with new varieties of indigenous solanaceous crops that are high yielding, nutritious and resilient to climate change, especially drought. The project proposes to improve African eggplant productivity by developing integrated plant management strategies and novel germplasm resources. It will identify the soil matric potentials below which plant productivity is reduced to inform new irrigation strategies. Also it will test the feasibility of identifying spectral indices that can be used to monitor crop performance when under water stress. Project results will eventually be rolled out on African farms.
This work will be in partnership with the National Institue of Botany, UK (lead institute), The African Orphan Crop Consortium based at the World Agroforestry Centre, Nairobi and the World Vegetable Centre, Arusha, Tanzania and Mikocheni Agricultural Research Institute, Tanzania.