Sunday, September 16, 2007

Developing Palau’s main root crops

Although a higher percentage of the younger generation in Palau show a preference to eat rice during mealtimes, most of the Palauans still opt for the country’s main root crops- taro, tapioca (cassava) and the sweet potato. These are always available in almost every event or gathering. With this in mind, the Palau Community College-Cooperative Research Extension (PCC-CRE) focused on experimenting with ways and means to increase production and sustainability, and to come up with creating more products from these root crops.

CRE researcher Dr. Aurora G. del Rosario said that in 1998, the Women’s conference focused on the different root crops. The participants brought different varieties of taro, tapioca, and sweet potatoes and these were propagated at the PCC-CRE-Research & Development center. From her studies, Del Rosario said there are 22 varieties of sweet potatoes in Palau, but only 17 of these are different from each other. The remaining five varieties are similar. There are also 70 varieties of taro, and 53 varieties of cassava. Del Rosario made studies to identify and classify each variety to find methods to increase their productivity.

Dr. Nelson M. Esguerra, another researcher takes care of the pest control and management program by coming up with methods to reduce the occurrence of pests that would destroy the root crops.
“The use of sprays and chemicals to fight pests is not practiced here so we resort to using good pests to control the spread of bad pests,” Esguerra said. The good insects, Esguerra said, are imported from the United States, Japan and other parts of the world, depending on the availablitly of certain insects.

Another department of the center is manned by Dr. Lydia Marero, the center’s Food Research Technologist. Part of Marero's job is to develop new local food products not only from the three root crops but also from the other products like coconut, banana and fish. Some of the products include ice cream, pasta, chowder, steamed cakes, pancakes, tama, salad, bread, brownies, pie, muffins, cookies, and dry mixes. Marero is holding seminars and trainings on the processing of these products to the women from different States. The CRE is also experimenting on formulating wine from these root crops under researcher Lyndon Masami.
Interim Vice President of the Thomas Taro said the programs implemented by the CRE are all in accordance with the National Master Plan of the president to deliver sustainable technology to the consumers and to increase production and self-sufficiency of food supply in the country.
For more information about these programs, please contact the PCC-CRE office at 488-2746/4983.

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