A blog maintained by Tevita Kete, PGR Officer
Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva, Fiji Islands
This weblog documents the activities of Pacific Agricultural Genetic Resources Network (PAPGREN), along with other information on plant genetic resources (PGR) in the Pacific.
The myriad varieties found within cultivated plants are fundamental to the present and future productivity of agriculture. PAPGREN, which is coordinated by the Land Resources Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), helps Pacific countries and territories to conserve their crop genetic diversity sustainably, with technical assistance from the Bioversity International (BI) and support from NZAID and ACIAR.
SPC also hosts the Centre of Pacific Crops and Trees (CEPaCT). The CEPaCT maintains regional in vitro collections of crops important to the Pacific and carries out research on tissue culture technology. The CEPaCT Adviser is Dr Mary Taylor (MaryT@spc.int), the CEPaCT Curator is Ms Valerie Tuia (ValerieT@spc.int).
PAPGREN coordination and support
Mr William Wigmore
Mr Adelino S. Lorens
Dr Lois Englberger
Mr Apisai Ucuboi
Dr Maurice Wong
Mr Tianeti Beenna Ioane
Mr Frederick Muller
Mr Herman Francisco
Ms Rosa Kambuou
Ms Laisene Samuelu
Mr Jimi Saelea
Mr Tony Jansen
Mr Finao Pole
Mr Frazer Bule Lehi
Interested in GIS?
Thursday, November 21, 2002
Posted 3:18 PM by Luigi
Came across this fun article in the NY Times today. An interesting approach to on-farm conservation?
In the Kingdom of the Sweet Potato
By R. W. APPLE Jr.
But the big event of the year in Opelousas - the local equivalent of Pasadena's Rose Parade or Punxsutawney's Groundhog Day - features something altogether different: the sweet potato. Late every October, as the harvest is reaching its climax, just in time for Louisiana growers to ship the tubers off to their appointed places on holiday menus in countless American homes, local civic dignitaries stage a five-day sweet potato extravaganza. A treasured tradition for the last 57 years, it's called the Yambilee Festival.
The name is the town's contribution to the mindless muddle of tuber terminology, which would drive Linnaeus up the wall.
Sweet potatoes aren't really yams; yams, which belong to the genus Dioscorea, are grown widely in Africa, where they originated, and elsewhere in the tropics but scarcely at all in the United States. What we are dealing with here is Ipomoea batatas, which is not only not a yam but not a true potato. Believed to be a native of Central America, it is closely related to the morning glory, with the same purplish, heart-shaped leaves. Sweet potatoes, which are less dense and starchy than yams, are rich in healthful beta carotene, an important source of vitamin A.
Got all of that? O.K. But actually, why quibble? Call it Yambilee or SweetPotatoFest, it's a hoot either way, with its carnival rides and contests for the best-looking sweet potatoes, a Grand Louisyam Parade and displays of sweet potatoes that look like animals. These are called yam-i-mals.
There is enough royalty on hand to fill the palaces of Europe - not only the Yambilee Queen and her court but also King Yum Yum and Queen Yum Yum, Queen Marigold and King Willyam (these people have no shame whatsoever) and all manner of visiting majesties, including the Jambalaya Queen, the Frog Festival Queen, the Delcambre Shrimp Queen, the Sawmill Festival Queen, Miss Contraband and Miss Sulphur Mines. (Yambilee queens of yesteryear are people of standing in their communities; local boosters told me with evident pride that one former queen, Mrs. Janet Begneaud, is the sister of the painter Robert Rauschenberg.)
There is also a kind of culinary decathalon, with contests in 10 categories, as follows: yam pone, yam casserole, yam and beef, yam and seafood, yam pie, yam cake, yam candy, yam cookies, yam breads and the inescapable candied yams.
My wife, Betsey, and I didn't get a chance to taste this year's winners. By the time we got here, rain had been falling steadily for days, and the fairgrounds were awash. But I'm not sure I would have been a suitably impartial judge anyway. Like many a youth of tender sensibilities, I was put off at an early age by a Thanksgiving casserole of sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows. Ever since, I've been a bit of a yamophobe (they've got me doing it now).
I have never understood why people feel they have to douse sweet potatoes with molasses or maple syrup or brown sugar; to me, they taste just fine baked, scooped from the skin and flavored with butter, salt and pepper. Alice Waters, conscious of the Latin origins of sweet potatoes, sometimes adds some lime juice and a few cilantro leaves, and that suits me just fine as well.
In the hands of a master baker, sweet potatoes can be turned into mouthwatering desserts. At a recent Southern Foodways Alliance symposium in Oxford, Miss., Karen Barker of the Magnolia Grill in Durham, N.C., dazzled everyone with a light, satiny sweet potato pie, and the sweet potato cheesecake is a real crowd-pleaser on the dessert menu at Galatoire's in New Orleans.
Sweet potatoes are believed to have originated in Central America. The Spanish explorer Fernando De Soto found Indians growing them in this area in 1540. The principal commercial variety of sweet potato grown in Louisiana is the Beauregard, developed by Louisiana State University scientists in the 1980's to help farmers here regain their place in the sweet potato sun, which they were rapidly losing to South Carolina. Well suited to the silty, loamy Louisiana soils, it is a reliable producer, resistant to disease, naturally very sweet, with handsome golden flesh.
Dr. Mike Cannon, the head of the Louisiana State University sweet potato research station in Chase, La., told me that the state is now the nation's third-ranking sweet potato producer, after South Carolina and California. In 2001, the last year for which full figures were available, the state produced 150,000 tons of the tubers, most of them on farms of 500 acres or more in West Carroll, Franklin, Richland and Morehouse Parishes, in the northeastern corner of the state.
St. Landry Parish, surrounding Opelousas deep in south Louisiana, is the traditional center of sweet potato cultivation. No longer the actual center, it still produces a crop worth about $3.5 million in a good year. Which this is not likely to be, what with a visit from Hurricane Isidore and pelting, almost unceasing rains ever since.
"Forty, fifty percent of our crop is going to rot in the ground," said Gerald Roberts, the L.S.U. AgCenter county agent here. "Hard times are coming. The farmers can't get into the fields to finish the harvest. Some of our farmers, I'm afraid, aren't going to be farmers by next year."
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