Knowledge for a sustainable world

Characterisation of enset functional traits, genetics and optimal management practices to enhance food security and climate resilience in Ethiopia

Rachel’s project focuses on the ecological characterisation of cultivated Ensete ventricosum, an indigenous multipurpose food crop in Ethiopia, with particular focus on its tolerance to drought, in order to better understand its productivity and resilience in the context of climate change.

Characterisation field work will be conducted in Ethiopia, on farm and in existing ex situ collections. Evaluation of enset growth and other related parameters during drought stress will be carried out in growth chamber and greenhouse experiments at Bioversity International’s banana genebank in Belgium and in field experiments in Ethiopia. Genetic data from other ongoing projects will feed into the interpretation of the impact of domestication on ecological traits and drought tolerance.

Rachel’s 7 years’ experience in Musa (banana) research with Bioversity International adds value to project, allowing insightful comparisons of the sister genera (Musa and Ensete).

Primary Supervisor: Lucie Buchi
Secondary Supervisor(s): Jonne Rodenburg, Dr. James Borrell (Kew Gardens) (External)

Rachel is a part-time PhD student who started in January 2020. As an American living overseas for over 20 years, she has had many homes, the most recent being Montpellier, France, where she works part-time for Bioversity International in the Banana Genetic Resources Programme.

Rachel holds a BSc in Ecology from the University of Texas and an MSc in Plant Systematics from the University of Cape Town.

Her professional focus has been on sustainable agrobiodiversity, and in particular on global banana diversity. Naturally she became interested in studying enset, it being in the same family as bananas (Musaceae), with many similarities but also intriguing differences. Little research has been done on enset so there are many exciting questions to answer! 

  • Ruas, M. et al. 2017. MGIS: Managing banana (Musa spp.) genetic resources information and high-throughput genotyping data. Database, 2017, 1-17.
  • MusaNet 2016. Summary of the Global Strategy for the Conservation and Use of Musa Genetic Resources (R. Chase and B. Laliberte, compilers). Bioversity International, Montpellier, France.
  • Chase, R. et al. 2016. The field verification activity: a cooperative approach to the management of the global Musa in vitro collection at the International Transit Centre. Acta Horticulturae 1114; 61 -65.
  • Roux, N. et al. 2014. Strengthening the Link Between Musa Genomics and Genetic Resource Applications through Characterization, Evaluation, Conservation and Data Management. International Plant and Animal Genome Conference XXII 2014
  • Chase, R. 2003. MSc Thesis, University of Cape Town: Palaeoclimatic impacts on the phylogeography of an Afromontane liverwort: Jamesoniella colorata (Lophoziaceae)
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