This review paper attempts to give account of how plant characterization assists the availability of information on desirable plant traits, to enhance selective breeding for environmental stresses and thus attain sustainable forage production. Plant characterization is referred to as an account for heritable characters varying from agronomical, morphological to molecular markers. It simplifies grouping of accessions, development of core collections, identification of gaps and retrieval of valuable germplasm for breeding programmes resulting in better insight about the composition of the collection and its genetic diversity. Plant characterization by morphological, physiological and agronomic traits has long been used in selective breeding. Advancement of characterization to the use of molecular markers speed up the process and permits optimal utilization of the adaptive traits harboured in all breeds for stressful environments. In countries like Tanzania, where agro-climatic conditions are challenging, technological progress is slow and market institutions are poorly developed, selecting highly adaptive local varieties is important. Knowledge from characterization of local varieties could be used to breed adaptive and resilient varieties. This will help the farmers to produce enough forage in the fast changing and stressful environmental conditions.
Key words: Characterization, Cenchrus ciliaris, drought, salinity, traits.
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