Secretariat of the Pacific Community Center for Pacific Crops and Trees (CePaCT)
Crop diversity remains the key to meeting future food needs. Yet these resources are disappearing and diversity in the Pacific has been no exception to this trend.
The mission of CePaCT is to assist Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs) to conserve the region’s genetic resources, and to provide access to the diversity they need, when they need it.
Conservation is the core business of the center, with priority given to the region’s staple crops: taro, yam, sweet potato, banana, cassava and breadfruit. The center houses over 2,000 accessions. The taro collection is particularly unique, being the largest collection of taro diversity globally with over 1,000 accessions.
Efforts are currently focused on building up regional collections of banana, breadfruit and yam in recognition of the diversity that exists in these crops in the Pacific. This diversity needs to be conserved, evaluated and made available to countries so that farmers can use this resource to improve food production and income generation.
Crop Trust Support
The Crop Trust provides a long-term grant for the conservation of the international collection of aroids and yam at CePaCT in SPC.
CePaCT not only conserves the region’s valuable genetic diversity, but also undertakes the important mission of distributing it, making it available for growers throughout the Pacific to use. Quarantine services throughout the Pacific region recognize that virus-tested plantlets (tissue cultures) are a safe method for importing plant material. In 2009 CePaCT distributed over 8,000 sweet potato, banana, cassava, yam, Irish potato, taro, breadfruit, vanilla, Alocasia and Xanthosoma plants to PICTs for evaluation and use.
CePaCT also has a strong research program. Current research activities include the development of micropropagation protocols for sandalwood and pandanus; cryopreservation of aroids; salt tolerance studies on swamp taro and taro virus research. In the past CePaCT has worked with USP in supporting Master’s students in kava micropropagation and taro cryopreservation, and with USP and QUT in supporting a PhD in somatic embryogenesis.