Linking breadfruit cultivar names across the globe connects histories after 230 years of separation

Lauren Audi, Gordon Shallow, Erasto Robertson, Dean Bobo, Diane Ragone, Elliot M. Gardner, Babita Jhurree-Dussoruth, Jacek Wajer, Nyree J.C. Zerega*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Every crop has a story. The story of breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis), an increasingly valued staple crop in tropical agroforestry systems, is filled with intrigue, oppression, and remains incomplete. The Caribbean is a major producer and consumer of breadfruit, yet most breadfruit there came from a single 1793 introduction aimed at providing a cheap food source for slaves forced to work on British plantations. St. Vincent was the first significant point of Caribbean introduction and played a vital role in subsequent breadfruit distribution throughout the region. Hundreds of cultivars are documented in breadfruit's native Oceania. It remains a mystery, however, which ones were introduced to the Caribbean 230 years ago—still comprising the vast diversity found there today. Integrating local knowledge, historical documents and specimens, morphological data, and DNA, we identify eight major global breadfruit lineages—five of which are found in the Caribbean and likely represent the original 1793 introduction. Genetic data were able to match two Caribbean cultivar names confidently to their Oceania counterparts. Genetics and morphology together enabled additional possible matches. Many other named cultivars within lineages are too genetically similar to differentiate, highlighting difficulties of defining and identifying variation among clonally propagated triploid crops. Breadfruit is important in resilient agroforestry in tropical islands predicted to be especially affected by climate change. Findings reveal global links, building upon collective knowledge that can be used to inform breadfruit management. Results are also summarized in a brochure about breadfruit history and diversity in St. Vincent, and the Caribbean more broadly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)287-297.e3
JournalCurrent Biology
Volume33
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 23 2023

Keywords

  • Captain Bligh
  • Caribbean
  • Polynesian crops
  • St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Tahiti
  • agroforestry
  • breadfruit
  • targeted capture DNA sequencing
  • triploid
  • underutilized crops

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Neuroscience
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences

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