Controlled pollinations reveal self-incompatibility and inbreeding depression in the nutritionally important parkland tree, Parkia biglobosa, in Burkina Faso
The socioeconomically important fruit tree Parkia biglobosa is becoming less abundant in the West African savannah, possibly due to poor regeneration. This decline can be self-enforcing if lower densities of fertile trees result in increasing self-pollination followed by increased abortion rates or poor regeneration due to inbreeding depression. Hence, we have studied the reproductive success and seedling viability of P. biglobosa after controlled self- and cross-pollination based on a full diallel crossing design with eight trees. Controlled cross-pollination tripled the pod set compared to open-pollinated capitula, suggesting that fruiting of P. biglobosa trees in the study area is already seriously pollen limited. Self-pollination and specific pairs of trees resulted in very few pods, suggesting a high level of self-incompatibility. Cross-pollination resulted in larger pods with more and heavier seeds than self-pollinated pods. The total amount of sugar in the fruit pulp was correlated with both the number of healthy and total seeds per pod. Growth rate of self-pollinated seedlings was lower than the cross-pollinated ones, suggesting significant inbreeding depression. Because the wild fruit trees play an important role in human nutrition, these results give rise to serious concerns. We recommend that future studies investigate how the level of cross-pollination can be increased and how the regeneration of P. biglobosa, whether natural or planted, can be improved.
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