New disease-resistant taro and kumala varieties released

Fiji's Minister for Agriculture Inia Seruiratu. Picture: FT FILE

NEW disease-resistant and tolerant varieties of taro and kumala were released at the Ministry of Agriculture’s Koronivia Research Station.

The newly-released taro leaf blight tolerant varieties known as ‘Tarova Loa’ and ‘Tarova Vula’, and the new kumala variety named ‘Golden Brown’ was made available through collaboration between Fiji’s Ministry of Agriculture, the Pacific Community (SPC) – Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees (CePaCT), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Treaty Benefit Sharing Project in the Pacific and Australian Aid.

Fiji’s Minister for Agriculture Inia Seruiratu said the release of those varieties created a new pathway of plans to protect the taro industry from leaf blight disease.

“Releasing these taro leaf blight tolerant varieties to our farmers will ensure improved dalo resilience to this devastating taro disease that is present in the Pacific island countries such as Hawaii, Federated States of Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Guam, Northern Marianas and Samoa,” Mr Seruiratu said in a statement issued by the Government.

And with Fiji exporting taro to lucrative markets such as New Zealand, Australia, Canada, United States and Hawaii, he said taro was one of the most important crops in Fiji in terms of food and income security to farmers and had been one of the major export commodities over the years with a total production gross value of $120million with export earnings of $22million in 2017.

“Fiji is vulnerable to such diseases due to its location, climatic conditions, increasing trade, sea and air travel to other Pacific island countries and there is a high possibility of an occurrence of this disease in Fiji, and we need to prepare and have plans in place to support the taro industry, especially to the rising number of farmers who are directly involved,” Mr Seruiratu was quoted saying in the Government statement.

For kumala, he said the crop was always an undeveloped commodity in Fiji despite its economic potentials.

He said Fiji’s total kumala production amounted to 8411 metric tonnes in 2017, which were mainly for subsistence use and sale at local markets.

The new kumala variety has orange flesh colour, matures in 100 to 115 days, is high yielding, drought tolerant and is highly resistant to kumala scab disease, the minister said.