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  (TaroGen - Colocasia cv. project) Re: [aroid-l] Arum key project
From: Eugene Hoh hohe at symphony.net.au> on 2003.04.24 at 08:08:33(10119)
Dear Dr Mishra, Peter Boyce and all,

For those interested in Colocasia (or in wider issues around biodiversity and
taxonomy of cultivated plants, and the social relations of food crop
cultivation), and haven't heard of this - I thought I should mention TaroGen
(Taro Genetic Resources: Conservation and Utilisation), whose website I
stumbled across one day. This is an international germplasm project for
cultivated Colocasia centred on the Pacific region, and is being carried out by
the Secretariat for the Pacific Community until the end of this year.

Apparently TaroGen came about in 1998 as an emergency response to the taro leaf
blight (Phytophthora colocasiae) epidemic which had destroyed Colocasia crops
in the Pacific region, causing hardship in communities (esp. Samoa) where it
was a staple crop, and also loss of genetic diversity among plants wiped out.
The project appears to be focused on developing a strategy for documenting and
conserving Colocasia genetic diversity in the region, and releasing improved
(disease resistant) varieties; it has included establishing a collection of
important cultivars maintained in tissue culture, as well as supporting
regional breeding programs (which have issued new cultivars).

The TaroGen website is at
http://www.spc.org.nc/tarogen/

Although there is general info on the web pages, most detail is contained in
downloadable documents (PDF). Unfortunately I couldn't find descriptions of
cultivars online (a 'Morphological/Passport Data' page is 'yet to be
published'), but as this is one of the major concerns of the project, it's sure
to be forthcoming - contacts of project staff are provided. Of note is
TaroGen's use of DNA fingerprinting, in addition to morphological information
for evaluating cultivar diversity, since many are vegetatively similar but are
genetically distinct - I'm guessing (not being familiar with the discipline)
the use of such methods for aroids is relatively new? (Also - I don't know if
the project aims to classify the cultivars in any particular way - though some
of the background literature discusses phylogeny.)

Even if it has come from a field somewhat removed from systematic botany, (and
may be controversial to some, for other reasons) this project still sounds
important and might have relevance for those doing taxonomy / systematics of
Colocasia and relatives - (as well as for an aroid cultivar register,
perhaps?).

Meanwhile - the site also announces the Third Taro Symposium, held next month
(21-23 May) in Nadi, Fiji - its page is at
http://www.spc.int/cis/tarosym/Index.htm

Anyway - I hope this information is useful (and apologies for such a
long-winded posting!).

Regards,
Eugene Hoh

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