Genetic Resources

The GR thematic team contributes to the LRD objectives through facilitating access to both traditional and improved agrobiodiversity. The Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees (CePaCT) is the genebank for the Pacific region. It houses a globally unique collection of taro, conserving diversity for present and future generations. The CePaCT also plays a key role in ensuring that the countries of the Pacific have access not only to traditional diversity but also to improved crops, which can be crucial in the management of pests and diseases, and in securing food production within a changing climate. Crop diversity can also assist countries in taking advantage of market opportunities.

Sweetpotato virus diagnostic training held at SPC
Wednesday, 11 September 2013 10:41

A team of sweetpotato scientists from Australia and Papua New Guinea visited SPC's Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees from 26–30 August to share their knowledge on testing of sweetpotato for disease.

The one-week training was made possible through a project funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research – Identifying appropriate strategies for reducing virus and weevil losses in sweetpotato production systems in Papua New Guinea and Australia. The project is a collaboration between the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry; the Australian Sweetpotato Growers' Association; the National Agricultural Research Institute of Papua New Guinea; and SPC.

Viruses are detected in sweetpotato in several ways. One way is to graft shoots from the plants onto an indicator plant related to sweetpotato that is sensitive to virus infection. A second way is to use antibodies to ten common viruses in an enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test to see if they are present in the sap; and a third way is to use polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to search for virus nucleic acids. As previous training in Australia had involved the use of an indicator plant and the ELISA test, this time PCR was the focus.

At the end of the training, a protocol was agreed among the partners, based on the three methods; this protocol will be used in future to give farmers planting material that is as healthy as the tests allow.

Healthy, virus-tested, planting material has proven its worth. Field trials on research stations and in farmers’ fields have shown that yields from storage roots of virus-tested plants are much higher than yields from plants kept in the field for some years. The current project continues to quantify this, so that the value of the clean seed system can be determined accurately.

In collaboration with Biosecurity Authority of Fiji, the teams from Papua New Guinea, Australia and SPC will continue to work under the project to share knowledge and build capacity, leading to even better virus-detection methods.

Apart from developing detection methods, CePaCT will collect, conserve and distribute virus-tested material for the benefit of all countries and territories of the region.

For further information contact: Amit Sukal, Plant virus diagnostic officer, SPC, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or Michael Hughes, Farming Systems Development Officer, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), Queensland, Australia. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .