Agro-morphological characterization of Urochloa grass accessions in Kenya

Donald M.G. Njarui, Mwangi Gatheru, Sita R. Ghimire


Information of existing phenotypic diversity of Urochloa grass is important in selection for pasture development. Forty-seven accessions from 8 different Urochloa species obtained from the genebank of International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Colombia were characterized using a set of 22 agronomic and morphological characters. Most of the accessions originated from the East African region. The accessions were planted in December 2013 at Katumani, Eastern Kenya. Twelve seedlings of each accession were transplanted in single row plots at a spacing of 10 cm between plants. Agro-morphological data were collected from the middle 10 plants for each accession. Multivariate analyses were applied to cluster the accessions with similar agronomic and morphological traits. Principal component analysis revealed 4 components with eigenvalues greater than 1 with first and second components accounting for 23.8 and 20.2% of variation, respectively. The cluster analysis identified 5 main groups differentiated largely by days to 50% flowering, flowering duration and plant spread. Leafiness, growth habit, culm thickness and stigma color did not show significant difference among the clusters. The results provided useful information on the diversity in agronomy and morphology that exists among accessions but the collection was not sufficiently diverse and a much wider sample of accessions is needed to identify the true extent of variation in this genus. Important variables like dry matter yield and chemical composition of these accessions would need to be assessed before proceeding with any further evaluation in the field.

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