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Climate proofing our food: Drought resistant ‘Smart Dasheen’

Farmers reaping dasheen (file photo)

Farmers reaping dasheen (file photo)

Agriculture officials say a variety of the dasheen plant has proven to be resistance to drought and soil with high salinity and could provide be beneficial to the Caribbean where the agricultural sector depends on seasonal rainfall.

“This crop is already tested in the Caribbean, it was planted in Trinidad and the feedback is very positive,” said Samson Vilvil Fare, the Associate Programme Coordinator, ARD Policy of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation.

He told a weeklong Caribbean Pacific Agri-food forum here that the new variety of the dasheen had been developed in the Pacific as part of a project aimed at developing climate change resistance crops and plants that may soon be available to Caribbean farmers through the Caribbean Agriculture Research and Development Institute (CARDI).

Fare explained that the crop was developed by the Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees in the Pacific and took years of study to develop what is now widely accepted among farmers and consumers in Pacific. “Dasheen is a main staple for us and we eat a lot of it, so something had to be done to ensure that it will survive long dry season that is now associated with the impact of climate change,” he said.

“The aim of the centre is to assist Pacific Island countries and territories to conserve the region’s resources, and to make them available to the when they are required by farmers in particular. Conservation is the core business of the centre, with priority given to a number of crops such as dasheen which we call taro, yam, cassava and breadfruit,” he said.

“So in that sense, the Caribbean don’t have to reinvent the wheel and we are sharing with them our experiences and research because we share common climatic conditions,” said Fare.

He told the forum that the climate in the  Pacific and the Caribbean is the same and “so it means we eat the same type of food and therefore what is grown there can be grown here.

“The dasheen we develop taste the same, look the same and took the same amount of time for maturity and so all that will be required is for farmers here to plant them.

“Dasheen needs water to grow and mature but this variety needs less water, so under drought condition it will be able to produce and if sea level was to rise where its planted and the salt water gets into the soil, that variety will not died because it’s also resistance to high salinity levels,” he said.

Fare, who was speaking about the impact of Climate Change on the effects it is having on crop production, said that the changing climate has confused some plants about the season for their own production but with the right research solutions will be identified as part of adaptation measures.

“This makes the agriculture sector highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change on rainfall patters as lack of production diversification and other sustainable agricultural practices increases the risk of crop failure,” he said.

The agricultural policy advisor disclosed that the Pacific is interesting the Caribbean yellow yam because although they have different variety in the pacific, the Yellow Yam which is a major staple in the Caribbean is not one of the varieties identified in the Pacific.

Credit: Jamaica Observer

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