Part of the book: Biodiversity in Ecosystems
The Southern African Miombo-Mopane woodlands are globally considered as ecosystems with irreplaceable species endemism, being the most important type of vegetation in the region. Among the approximately 8500 plant species, legume trees play a crucial role in biodiversity dynamics, being also key socioeconomic and environmental players. From the ecological point of view, they contribute significantly to ecosystem’s stability as well as to water, carbon, and energy balance. Additionally, legume species represent an immensurable source of timber and nontimber products. Research in Miombo-Mopane biodiversity has been mainly focused on the analysis of ecosystem drivers by means of ecological parameters and models, lacking interdisciplinary with relevant cross-cutting tools, such as the application of molecular markers to assess genetic diversity within the region. In this chapter, the applications and biodiversity dynamics of typical legume species from Miombo (Brachystegia spp., Julbernardia globiflora, and Pterocarpus angolensis) and Mopane (Colophospermum mopane) are reviewed. Gaps and challenges are also brought forward in the context of the lack of genetic diversity assessments and the need of an effective and coordinated network of interdisciplinary research.
Part of the book: Genetic Diversity
Climate variability and changes are utmost important primary drivers of biological processes. They are intimately associated with a wide array of abiotic stresses, highlighting the vulnerability of ecosystems and endangering biodiversity. Nitrogen‐fixing trees and shrubs (NFTSs) constitute a unique group of plants for their wide range of applications at the environmental, social and economic levels. In this chapter, we review and analyse the potential of this group of legumes in agroforestry towards sustainable agriculture in Africa. In the first part, the intertwined pillar of sustainable agriculture is brought forward under the context of growing population and climate changes. The second part addresses general aspects of legumes, including botany and the symbiosis with rhizobia. The third part includes the application of NFTS as N‐fertilizers in agroforestry, highlighting the importance of an accurate choice of the crop(s)/NFTS combination(s) and cropping type (intercropping, multistrata or fallows). The implementation of agroforestry systems with NFTS should be supported by fundamental research strategies such as stable isotopes and systems biology and preceded by experimental assays, in order to identify the factors promoting N‐losses and to design appropriate management strategies that synchronize legume‐N availability with the crop demand.
Part of the book: Nitrogen in Agriculture
Cowpea, Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp, is among the most important grain legumes in Africa. Its nutritional value and biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) potential coupled with a high plasticity to environmental conditions places this legume in a unique position in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) in the context of food and nutritional security. However, cowpea yield and BNF contribution to agricultural systems in this sub-continent is far behind the average global values. The inability to run effective breeding programs to timely generate and deliver high yielding, nutritious and climate smart cowpea varieties, coupled with poor crop husbandry practices has been in the forefront of the current situation. In this chapter, the main constrains and opportunities to establish and run successful and effective cowpea production and breading programs in SSA are discussed. The discussion is built around the argument that SSA can benefit from its rich collection of landraces, as well as from high-throughput methodologies to assist the screening and the development of adapted, high yielding and nutritious varieties.
Part of the book: Legume Crops