|Evaluation of selected edible aroids by breeders and farmers progresses well|
|Tuesday, 17 November 2015 16:34|
Representatives from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe and the Pacific met in Santo, Vanuatu from 3–6 February 2015 for the third meeting of the International Network for Edible Aroids (INEA).
INEA was established in 2011 to implement the Adapting clonally propagated crops to climatic and commercial change project. The project is implemented by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and partly funded by the European Union (EU). Technical coordination is provided by the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD).
The network has developed a system of distributing the most popular taro varieties. The first varieties that were distributed came from SPC’s collection housed at the Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees in Suva, Fiji. Others will follow as countries send their best taro to the SPC for disease testing and sharing.
The taro sent to countries from SPC are first evaluated alongside the best local varieties in research stations in each country. The most promising are quickly distributed to farmers for further testing.
At the same time as farmers are testing the selected varieties, the most promising from the research station trials are crossed to raise seedlings; these also go to farmers for evaluation.
The aim is to increase the resilience of taro to climate changes and to better match market requirements by working with farmers from the outset.
The meeting, hosted by the Vanuatu Agriculture Research and Technical Centre, was opened by the Secretary of the Sanma Provincial Government Council, who welcomed INEA members to Santo.
Addressing the meeting, Mr Prosper Buletare, Senior Planner for the council, said, "Taro and other edible aroids are major food crops in Vanuatu, with high cultural significance, so it is very fitting that the meeting is held here."
Country presentations showed the appropriateness of the model. About 30 varieties in each country are now with groups of farmers for testing. There are indications of the types they prefer and this will guide breeding at the research stations.
In some cases, there are indications of tolerance to extreme weather events and even salinity. As breeding has started or is well established by most partners, the meeting was extended to allow participants to discuss methods and any difficulties that have arisen or are likely to occur.
In addition, European institutions (University of Madeira – Portugal; CIRAD – France; University of Maribor – Slovenia; and Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen – Germany) reported on protocols for screening taro varieties for tolerance to drought; studies on the genetic diversity of taro in each country; chemical analyses of corms for mineral and nutritional content; and the diagnosis of several viruses, including the possible cause of lethal diseases in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.
Collections have been assembled and diversity assessed, and now breeders know how to make crosses. Breeding and evaluations for a serious root rot disease will be a major focus of the work on the crop this year.
Photo captions (1 and 2):
Members of the SPC-EU INEA network enjoying field practicals, learning from INEA experts about crop breeding and viruses that infect important staple crops in different regions.
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