Enset (Ensete ventricosum) is a multipurpose crop extensively cultivated in southern and southwestern Ethiopia for human food, animal feed and fiber. It contributes to the food security and rural livelihoods of 20 million people. Several distinct enset landraces are cultivated for their uses in traditional medicine. Socio-economic changes and the loss of indigenous knowledge might lead to the decline of important medicinal landraces and their associated genetic diversity. However, it is currently unknown whether medicinal landraces are genetically differentiated from other landraces. Here, we characterize the genetic diversity of medicinal enset landraces to support effective conservation and utilization of their diversity
We evaluated the genetic diversity of 51 enset landraces of which 38 have reported medicinal value. A total of 38 alleles were detected across the 15 SSR loci. AMOVA revealed that 97.6% of the total genetic variation is among individual with an FST of 0.024 between medicinal and non-medicinal landraces. A neighbor-joining tree showed four separate clusters with no correlation to the use values of the landraces. Principal coordinate analysis also confirmed the absence of distinct clustering between the groups, showing low differentiation among landraces used in traditional medicine and those having other use values.
We found that enset landraces were clustered irrespective of their use value, showing no evidence for genetic differentiation between enset grown for ‘medicinal’ uses and non-medicinal landraces. This suggests that enset medicinal properties may be restricted to a more limited number of genotypes, a product of interaction with the environment or management practice, or partly misreported. The study provide baseline information that promotes further investigations in exploiting the medicinal value of these specific landraces.