TARO LEAF BLIGHT AND ITS MANAGEMENT IN SAMOA
DG HUNTER1, P SlVAN1, F AMOSA1 and K POUONQ2
1School of Agriculture, Alafua Campus, University of the South Pacific, Samoa; 2Ministry of Agriculture, Forests, Fisheries and Meteorology, Nu'u, Samoa
Background and objectives
The impact of this disease in Samoa has been dramatic. Prior to the arrival of leaf blight, taro was the major staple of Samoans. It was also the major export crop, having recently replaced cocoa and coconut. In financial terms the losses to farmers were devastating, and within a few months of the disease outbreak export earnings had fallen dramatically and taro production had dropped by over 95% . The initial response of the Samoan government was to carry out large-scale spraying with fungicides and place restrictions on the movement of planting material. Despite these actions the disease spread to the nearby island of Savai'i. The rapid spread of the disease prompted the government to supply subsidized fungicides and spraying equipment to farmers. This was folowed by a major information and public awareness programme related to the disease and its control, which included the use of fungicides and crop sanitation. Unfortunately, the majority of traditional farmers in Samoa lack the resources to carry out these methods of control, and as a result taro production in Samoa is undertaken by a few commercial growers while subsistence growers have diversified into other crops. In the Samoan context, reliance on methods of control that require considerable inputs is not sustainable. The objective of current research on taro leaf blight focuses on varietal selection and the breeding of taro varieties with resistance to the disease. The use of cultural approaches, such as intercropprng, is also being investigated.
Results and conclusions
Trials demonstrated that taro interoropped with maize had significantly lower taro leaf blight levels compared to taro as a sole crop. Future trials will examine the effect of Xanthamonas and Alocasia spp. as intercrops with taro.