Maintenance of food crop germplasm collections is a major activity at NARI-Keravat. The activity, although often underrated, has a national significance.
It ensures that the wide genetic diversity of PNG’s traditional food crop species and varieties, which are the country’s heritage, is either conserved for scientists to use in future research work and preserved for future generations.
Maintaining collections of traditional food crops is especially important nowadays because many of them are coming under threat from factors such as:
1. Cash cropping
2. Consumer demand for certain types of species and varieties only
3. Competition from imported store foods
4. Difficult growing conditions due to land use intensification
The main food crop collections at NARI Keravat include those for the important staple crops: sweet potato, taro, cassava and banana along with traditional vegetables like aibika and pitpit. Small numbers of different traditional leafy greens like kumumosong, valangur and kalava are also maintained. Additionally, the station also maintains eight varieties of corn introduced from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre in Thailand and around 39 elite varieties of peanut introduced from the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics in India. These materials are presently undergoing varietal testing. Each crop collection and number of materials are listed below:
Crop Number of accessions or varieties held at the collection
Sweet Potato 108
Of these collections, only sweet potato was fully characterized and evaluated under the Pacific Regional Agricultural Programme (PRAP) on sweet potato between 1990 and 1998 at Keravat, Laloki (Central Province) and Aiyura (Eastern Highlands Province).
Characterization and evaluation work involves describing the different morphological features of plants and testing their performances for desirable traits like high and stable yields, early maturity and tolerance to important insect pests and diseases. The plants are described using minimum descriptor lists developed by the International Board for Plant Genetic Resources (IBPGR) of the Asia Pacific region. A number of traditional crops, however, like pitpit and the traditional leafy greens still do not have descriptor lists, which have to be developed.
The collections are regularly replanted to regenerate new and healthy materials and are also checked for mixtures to avoid contamination of materials in the field. During growth, researchers also conduct observations on growth vigour and level of infestation by important insect pests and diseases and record yields produced at harvest.
For further information, contact:
NARI Wet Lowlands Islands Programme
P.O Box 204, KOKOPO
East New Britian Province
Papua New Guinea
Phone: (675) 983 9145
Fax: (675) 983 9129