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Botswana College of Agriculture
Private Bag 0027
Gaborone, Botswana
Phone: +267 - 3650100
Fax: +267 - 3928753
www . bca . bw
University of Botswana
Botswana Government

The Department of Crop Science Production is made up of seven units, Agronomy, Crop Physiology, Crop Protection, Soil Science,Plant Clinic,Horticulture and Forestry & Range


The aim of the marama project was to develop an understanding of morama bean (Tylosema esculentum (Burch) A. Schreb.), its distribution, biology and socio-economic potential as a crop. Morama is a wild perennial legume of southern Africa, which produces edible grain (seed) with a large content of protein (30-39%), of large lysine and relatively large S-amino acid content, and oil (35-43%) which has a large proportion of oleic (49%) and linoleic (24%) acid. Morama is widespread, with large populations (around the central Kalahari) and Namibia, and smaller populations in the Transvaal region of South Africa. Morama grows in well drained, fine, generally calcareous sands, but also in regions of harder calcareous conglomerates, at pH 6 to 8.

Seed is frequently consumed (but roots much lees so) as a good quality snack or main food, sometimes eaten fresh (when boiled), but generally roasted when mature. Plants were grown, from seed, as a crop in field trials in Botswana, some flowered in the first year. The seed production is variable (in wild-growing plants also), suggesting that selection for higher yielding strains is possible. Studies in laboratory and field using gas-exchange methods showed that morama has C3 photosynthesis: it uses water and nitrogen, responds to temperature, with similar efficiency to other C3 plants. Drought induces earlier leaf-folding and stomatal closure, but relative water content, and water and osmotic potential do not decrease greatly. Vegetative growth is rapidly slowed by water stress, and leaves drop (abscise) quickly. These features, and dependence of seed set on rain, show that morama is a ‘drought-avoiding’ species which survives by accumulating a large proportion of assimilates in the tuber.

Studies of N assimilation with 15N and biochemical analyses, show that morama does not form root nodules with symbiotic bacteria. Agronomic trials show that morama growth is not stimulated by application of N-fertilizers, indicationg large efficiency in acquiring N. Similarly, phosphate fertilizers do not stimulate growth, suggesting a large efficiency in acquisition and use of P.

For more details on the morama project contact:
     G. Ramolemana email: gramolem@bca.bw

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An Associate Institution of the University of Botswana established through Act of Parliament No. 9 of 1991