Worku Mhiret from the University of Gondar, Ethiopia and Pat Heslop-Harrison (University of Leicester, UK) are working on linseed or flax: measuring the diversity of accessions from Ethiopia and comparing this with varieties from Ireland, Canada and elsewhere. We are also making crosses between lines and between cultivars and wild species of Linum; these are now in the F2 generation. The lines and hybrids are being scored for morphological, disease and quality (oil) characters in the field, and their diversity measured with molecular markers, aiming to find also markers for agronomic and quality characters.
Linum usitatissium, as its Latin name suggests, is truely ‘most useful’. The flax used to make linen, paper and rope, is a bast or phloem-based fibre from the stem of the plant, unlike the cellulose of cotton bolls, and has high-value properties for weaving. The seed oil, linseed oil, has unique food, potential pharmaceutical, and industrial properties – it hardens chemically rather than through drying, so hence its traditional use for cricket bats, paint and putty . Linseed has been grown in Ethiopia for millennia, having food, cultural and economic importance.
The complete project has the title “The molecular and morphological characterization of biodiversity in Ethiopian linseed (Linum usitatissimum) accessions and hybrids”. Currently, some 314,489 molecular marker bands have been assessed across more than 575 lines and hybrid-derivatives.
Lines which have been evaluated and are of interest for seed production quality are being grown with smallholder farmers as our main project partner and project-owner in Dabat woredas, North Gondar, Ethiopia. Currently, 14 (12 male and 4 female) farmers are involved in the project, and the project results are very promising to get quality seeds with different use values and lines with promising agronomic characters.
Any interested fund donors and researchers can join our project.
Dabat Wored, North Gondar, Ethiopia
The first paper from this work is discussed at https://molcyt.org/2014/12/22/diversity-in-ethiopian-linseed-linum-usitatissimum-morphology-and-seed-oil/