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INEA is now well established and recognised internationally as a cooperative network of countries exchanging germplasm, information and modern biotechnologies. The network focuses on taro (Colocasia esculenta) and cocoyam (Xanthosoma sagittifolium) to construct a climatic adaptation model transferable to other aroids and clonally propagated root and tuber crops.

INEA has received considerable international recognition since the programme began. In addition to requests to attend conferences and to submit reviews in refereed journals, several non-INEA countries have requested to become partners and to receive germplasm - Haiti, Guadeloupe, Cameroon, Mauritius, Bangladesh. Most of the requests are from countries where Taro leaf blight has been devastating.

The first task was for the Secretariat of the Pacific Community to send taro from its collections at the Centre of Pacific Crops and Trees to the partners. A very efficient system was developed whereby plants were sent in plastic pouches with very low contamination rates. Upon receipt the plants were transferred to soil. All the transfers were done according to the guidelines of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture using the Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA). This genetically diverse portfolio of varieties is now being compared to the local landraces so that the best can be rapidly distribution to farmers.

Later, the selections made by farmers will be improved by breeding. Breeding protocols have been agreed for
Alocasia and Colocasia. The overall objective of the breeding programme is to produce different varieties tolerant to TLB, with drought resistance and good quality corms. These will be exchanged among partners for testing by farmers. Some countries have begun to breed taro, crossing the varieties sent by SPC with those grown locally. A major breakthrough came in November 2013 when Dr C. Ahmadi (NRCRI, Umudike) from Nigeria used the introduced varieties for controlled pollination resulting in the first true botanical seeds being produced on the continent of Africa. This is an important step as TLB is now spreading through African countries where taro is an important crop for food security. Seeds from the Vanuatu breeding programme have already been sent to South Africa where a few local selections have been made. In Vanuatu, controlled crossing started some time ago and more than two thousand hybrids are being evaluated for quality traits. A PhD student funded by INEA (L. Soulard) is studying QTLs (Quantitative Trait Markers) and mapping traits related to corm quality.

There are several other projects being undertaken for higher degrees. SSRs have been used to fingerprint more than 300 accessions coming from the partners to confirm the geographical structure of taro genetic diversity (R. Traoré, PhD, CIRAD, Montpellier); a new set of SSR markers specific to
Xanthosoma have been developed (C. Cathebras, MSc, CIRAD, Montpellier), and these will be used for phylogeny studies to clarify the confused taxonomy of the genus; and studies are being made of the chemical variation between varieties by following the age of the plant (from 4 to 14 months) in an attempt to elucidate aspects of corm quality (A. Mergudus, PhD, University of Slovenia). More than 400 freeze dried samples are being analysed for major compounds (starch, proteins,minerals, fibres, sugars) as well as for secondary metabolites (anthocyanins, carotenoids, tannins).

Research is also being done In Madeira, Portugal, on the acclimation and growth of the varieties obtained from SPC and INEA partners for their tolerance to drought stress, and in Germany tests are underway to see if indicator plants for rhabdoviruses can be used to detect CBDV infection (bobone and alomae) from Solomon Islands. In addition, DsRNA extraction and subsequent cloning of random PCR fragments generated has revealed the presence of sequences of a putative tenuivirus.

These major achievements demonstrate that INEA is progressing rapidly and responding to longstanding demands from countries and farmers.