Hawaiian taro, TCBES Research Seminar Series - Event Details

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This event is being held online. Passcode: taro

Hawaiian taro, TCBES Research Seminar Series

Location: Online

Seminar Topic: Hawaiian taro: an exploration of genetic history, genome architecture, and disease resistance

Speaker: M. Renee Bellinger, Ph.D., Adjunct Assistant Professor, Dept. of Biology, University of Hawaii at Hilo and Research Specialist, Hawai'i Cooperative Studies Unit, Research Corporation University of Hawaii

Abstract: Taro (Colocasia esculenta), one of the world’s oldest root crops, is widely cultivated in the humid tropics of Asia, Africa, Caribbean, and the Pacific islands. Known as “kalo” in Hawaiian, taro is deeply bound to Hawaiian culture, with specific landraces having particular uses as food, medicine, or in religious ceremonies. Owing to extensive cultivation in Hawai'i more than 150 landraces existed prior to European contact, but many of those landraces have since been lost. Further, all Hawaiian landraces are susceptible to Taro Leaf Blight caused by the oomycete pathogen Phytophthora colocasiae. We investigated genetic variability among 70 taro accessions of Hawaiian, South Pacific, Palauan, and mainland Asian origins to (1) uncover the phylogenetic relationships between Hawaiian and other Pacific landraces and (2) shed light on the history of taro cultivation in Hawai‘i. We also de novo assembled a taro genome and used it as a reference to identify disease resistance genes and, based on a mapping population, regions of the genome associated with resistance to Taro Leaf Blight. Understanding relationships among the different Hawaiian landraces, modern cultivars, and hybrids is essential to creating both breeding and conservation plans. Efforts to preserve the original Hawaiian landraces can benefit from using DNA-based methods for genetic stock identification, and breeding programs may benefit from use of genetic markers associated with resistance to Taro Leaf Blight. This Taro research was supported by a NSF CREST grant awarded to UH Hilo.

For more information, contact: uhhtcbes@hawaii.edu (808) 932-7573

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Tags: TCBES research taro bellinger

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