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Lost Crops of Africa: Volume I, Grains
The cause of the low yields needs investigation. Is it because of the sites, diseases and pests, poor plant architecture, inefficient root structure, lodging, poor tillering, bolting, or daylength restrictions? What are optimum conditions for maximum yields? Can fonio's productivity approach that of the better-known cereals'?
Cereal chemists should analyze the grains. What kinds of proteins are present? What are the amino-acid profiles of the different proteins? Nutritionists should evaluate the biological effectiveness of both the grains and the products made from them. There are probably happy surprises waiting to be discovered. In particular, protein fractionation is likely to turn up fractions with methionine and cystine levels even greater than fonio's already amazingly high average.
The exceptional content of sulfur amino acids (methionine plus cystine) should make fonio an excellent complement to legumes. Feeding studies to verify this are in order. The combination could be nutritionally outstanding.
As a challenge to geneticists, fonio has a special fascination. It has no obvious wild ancestor. That it appears to be a hexaploid (2n=6x=54) may help account for this. Does it, in fact, contain three diploid genomes of different origin? What are its likely ancestors, and might they be used to increase its seed size and yield?
Lodging is a serious drawback, especially when the soil is fertile. This may be overcome by dwarfing the plant or endowing stronger stems by plant breeding. How "free-tillering" are the various types?
Certain other Digitaria species are cultivated exclusively as fodder, whereas some are notable for their soil-binding properties and ability to produce an excellent turf. Is fonio also useful for such purposes? Could it, too, become a valuable all-purpose plant for many regions? Could improved fonio be "naturalized" in the northern Sahel to increase the availability of wild grain to nomadic groups?
How is the crop currently cultivated, distributed, and processed? What roles are played by social and cultural