Characterization of landraces is central to any conservation measures devised for sweet potato in Malawi. Studies were therefore conducted using seven morphological descriptors and farmers’ indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) to investigate the phenotypical diversity of 286 landraces and 35 introductions of sweet potato from the north, south east and lower Shire. The accessions were planted in a check plot design at Bvumbwe Agricultural Research Station. The results showed that farmers’ knowledge (IKS) is a means for preliminary characterization of accessions as evidenced by elimination of 75 duplicate accessions by 12 farmers. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) showed that all accessions and populations were phenotypically variable (p≤0.01) and Chi-square test of the morphological descriptors used in the study varied significantly among the three eco-geographical areas and among the landraces and introductions (p≤0.05 and p≤0.01), implying high variability of the accessions. However, the accessions clustered at 50% dissimilarity and generally irrespective of eco-geographical origin, signifying some similarity probably due to gene flow. Shannon Weaver Diversity Index (H’) indicated that different traits had different source areas of highest diversity which were significantly different (p≤0.05); nonetheless Shire Valley had the highest mean diversity for all traits (H’=0.67) which was significantly different from the other two populations (p≤0.05) inferring that the lower shire would be ideal for in situ conservation of sweet potato diversity.
Key words: Field evaluation, germplasm, phenotype, population, root crop, variability.
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