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Mpondo landrace genomic research 4/2023

When we have reach the land of the Mpondo people a year ago for the first time, we could explore the valleys of traditional cannabis farmers, the custodians of the ancient landrace of Mpondoland. The oppression and attempts of eradication of the farming activities applied to these areas was one of the triggers for me to plan out the Mpondo Landrace genotyping mission for further study of genetic diversity and description of importance for local landrace preservation. 

  Mid-year of 2022 we started to plan mission with Simon. Targets were to screen a large area in the triangle between the upper and lower Mzimvubu river and upper Mzimtlava river corridors. Large area, the motherland of indigenous Mpondo people cultivating local landrace for centuries, in locations hardly accessible and remote from civilization.   

 

 The targets of the sampling, further research and DNA sequencing is to describe the genetic diversity and population structure of the Mpondo landrace as well as highlight the importance for the preservation of these areas and maintaining the traditional way of agriculture in the Mpondoland.

 Many studies confirmed the huge genetic variation within landrace populations as the source to discover novel alleles and enhance plant traits in future breeding programs. The same importance of preserving genetic diversity belongs to the Mpondo landrace as well of course.

 

 With our team colleagues and guides Greek and Bonke we got on the first day to the area in the upper corridor of Mzimtlava river, where we had to reach the local chief to get permission to proceed with sampling on the fields in the area. After a positive answer, our mission on upper Mzimtlava began. 

 The samples collection for the genomic study was performed in many different locations to cover as wide range of plants as possible. Beside a few off-types, the representative phenotypes of each plot or location were selected for sampling purposes. One to three accessions from each location or larger fields were collected for following analysis. Simultaneously we phenotyped morphological structure of the plants as height, leaf surface, leaflets number, internodal distance, stomata count, anthocyanin discoloration and few other observable and measurable traits, backed up with positional and elevation data to understand potential deviations in the phenome of the landrace in various locations.

 Further two days we continued the way down the Mzimtlava river to the junction of the Mzimvubu river. 

 Because of time pressure, we were not able to reach deep area of the upper Mzimvubu river as well as the lower river areas and these were reconsidered to sample in the next mission to the Mpondoland. So far we could collect 37 plant samples which will be used for the study of genetic diversity and variability in the Mpondo landrace and its importance for future breeders and researchers.

 Big Thank You to the Mpondo people, who allowed and helped us to proceed the sampling and research. Big Thanks to our teammates Bonke and Greek from Umzimvubu Farmers Support network to leads us thru the area and assist with the sample collection and phenotyping, as well as to @Simon to help with the project planning and realization.

 Blessings to Mpondoland.   

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