Taro Leaf Blight—A Threat to Food Security
Taro leaf blight (caused by the Oomycete Phytophthora colocasiae ) is a disease of major importance in many regions of the world where taro is grown. Serious outbreaks of taro leaf blight in Samoa in 1993 and in the last few years in Cameroon, Ghana and Nigeria continue to demonstrate the devastating impact of this disease on the livelihoods and food security of small farmers and rural communities dependent on the crop. The spread of the disease to new geographical areas also poses a major threat to neighbouring countries and taro growing regions still free from the disease. Past research, particularly in the Pacific, has demonstrated that management measures such as chemical and cultural control are largely ineffective and that breeding for disease resistance is the most sustainable approach to manage the disease. Recently, the Pacific and South-east Asian regional taro networks have made excellent progress in developing cultivars resistant to taro leaf blight through enhanced utilization of taro genetic resources and close collaboration between farmers and researchers in breeding programs. These programs have secured vital taro genetic resources for future use. This paper provides an overview of the disease, its origin, distribution, biology, epidemiology, management and global impact. The paper will largely focus on breeding strategies to address the disease including challenges, opportunities and constraints. It also discusses how these breeding experiences and outputs can be scaled up to other geographical areas where the disease has been recently introduced or under threat of introduction.
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