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  • Author or Editor: Scot C. Nelson x
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Taro leaf blight (TLB), caused by the oomycete pathogen Phytophthora colocasiae, is a worldwide disease that threatens the sustainable cultivation of the tropical root crop taro (Colocasia esculenta). To evaluate taro germplasm from Asia, Hawai‘i, and several South Pacific Islands for resistance to TLB, 119 cultivars were planted along the Hamakua Coast of Hawai‘i (mean annual rainfall of 130 inches) in plots containing five or 10 plants that were replicated over time from 1993 through 2005. Fresh and dry weights of corms were measured after about nine months, with rotten portions removed and weighed. When epidemics of TLB occurred (in nine out of 12 years), visual estimates of disease severity on leaves were assessed using a modified Horsfall–Barratt scale. The correlations between mean dry weight yields for each cultivar and mean severity of TLB, and, respectively, between mean yields and mean severity of corm rots were calculated. As severity of TLB or severity of corm rots increased (suggesting increased susceptibility of particular cultivars to TLB or corm rots), mean dry weight yields decreased significantly (r 2 = 0.37 and 0.22, respectively). “Multiple comparisons with the best” (MCB) were conducted on fresh and dry weight yields, severity of TLB, severity of corm rots, percentage dry matter of corm, and consumer acceptance. Five cultivars were found to be “among the best” with: 1) fresh or dry weight yields that did not differ from the highest level; 2) severity ratings for TLB that were significantly lower than the highest level, suggesting TLB resistance; and 3) percentage of corm rots that were lower than the highest level, suggesting disease resistance. These cultivars, four of which originated from Palau, were Dirratengadik, Merii, Ngesuas, Ochelochel, and Sawa Bastora. Two commercial cultivars from Hawai‘i, Bun Long and Maui Lehua, had fresh and dry weight yields that were significantly lower than the maximum and severity of TLB injury that did not differ from the highest level, indicating that conventional breeding of taro to improve TLB resistance could improve yields of commercial taro cultivars, particularly in areas where epidemics of TLB occur.

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