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Diversity of landraces and wild forms of watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) in southern Africa : a synopsis of the PhD Study

Mujaju, Claid


The genus Citrullus, belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family. Among the four species in this genus, a single species Citrullus lanatus (Thunberg) Matsum. & Nakai, commonly known as watermelon, is grown throughout the drought-prone southern Africa as a staple food (edible seeds), a dessert food (edible flesh), and for animal feed. The fruit can be eaten fresh or cooked and the seeds can be roasted. Its uses are however, multifaceted and vary depending on the customs of the humans growing this crop. In addition, the fruit can serve as a source of water, especially in deserts or where drinking water is contaminated. Several morphotypes of watermelon are found in southern Africa. Citrullus lanatus exhibits expansive polymorphism in southern Africa and the species occurs in the following forms: wild populations distributed throughout the country in a wide range of habitat types; sweet watermelon, cooking melon and seed melon landraces of the traditional agrosystems; and possibly introgressed types which are regarded as agronomic weeds. Farmers’ traditional onfarm practices contribute to the maintenance of watermelon landraces, and therefore play a role in nurturing local-level diversity. The wild watermelon is widely distributed in Africa and Asia, but originates from southern Africa occurring naturally in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia and Malawi. There has been little work on investigating the relationships between wild and cultivated forms, and to study amount and partitioning of genetic variation, to allow for better conservation strategies. This paper therefore is an attempt to summarise the work that has been done so far and the background literature, while providing the scope for the PhD study


Watermelon; Landraces; Morphotypes; Genetic variation; Onfarm practices; Wild forms

Published in

Introductory Paper at the Faculty of Landscape Planning, Horticulture and Agricultural Science
2009, number: 2009:3Publisher: Faculty of Landscape Planning, Horticulture and Agricultural Science, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Agricultural Science

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