Global strategy for the conservation and use of eggplants
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Common eggplant (Solanum melongena L.), also known as brinjal eggplant or aubergine, is a vegetable crop grown for its large soft fruits which are used in cooking. There are also two African eggplant species grown locally: scarlet eggplant (Solanum aethiop icum L.) and gboma eggplant (Solanum macrocarpon L.). According to the statistics of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), eggplant is grown on 1.8 million hectares (ha) globally, and 90% of eggplant production takes place in Asia. Breeding and research on eggplant is carried out in many coun tries. Numerous germplasm collections of eggplant and its related species exist to provide plant materials for breeding and related research. In the present study, we overview the current status of eggplant germplasm conservation efforts and the use of eggplant diversity with the aim of providing a forward-looking strategy document. To do this, we surveyed the global databases Genesys and WIEWS (World Information and Early Warning System on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture) to obtain information about existing eggplant ex situ collections. The most often represented species in these databases is brinjal eggplant with 12,715 acces sions conserved in total. This is followed by scarlet eggplant (886 accessions) and gboma eggplant (209 accessions). Wild relatives of eggplant are conserved in some collections, but some species are not well represented. In total, 109 eggplant collection holders were iden tified through the database searches. The collection holders were asked to complete an online survey on the status of their collections and the challenges that they faced. Responses were received from 32 collec tion holders, 27 of which provided sufficient data for further analyses. Most of the collection holders that responded were governmental organizations or publicly funded institutions. Two respondents were non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Several challenges related to the sustainability of eggplant conservation and use were identified. Shortages of funds and staff were reported as major threats to collection viability and security by many of the collec tion holders. Opportunities for improvement included recruiting new and/or young people interested in eggplant conservation, and increased collaborations across national borders and among institutions. Improved documentation of existing plant materials and increased information sharing were also identi fied as areas for improvement.