Wild Taro Research Project

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Location: Japan
Work interests: Crop Wild Relatives (CWR), plant domestication, crop history, biodiversity, ethnobotany
Affiliation/website: National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka, Japan
Preferred contact method: Any
Preferred contact language(s): English, German
Contact: Dr Peter J. Matthews, Project Leader: pjm [at] minpaku [dot] ac [dot] jp
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Economic Aroids Workshop at IBC, Shenzen, 2017

By Research Cooperative, 2017-05-02
Economic Aroids Workshop at IBC, Shenzen, 2017

The Economic Aroids Workshop will be an 'Associated Meeting' of the XIX International Botanical Congress (IBC) in Shenzen  ( see listing here, ST-24 )


Peter J. Matthews (National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka)

Chunlin Long ( Minzu University of China, Beijing; and Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming)

Date: 24 July, 2017

Time: 11:00 am -13:00 pm

Venue: main conference center.


The convenors will present a brief overview of economic aroids (Fam. Araceae) and research on these plants, and then introduce the "Wild Taro Research Project" . We will invite cross-disciplinary collaboration for an exploration of the natural and cultural history of taro ( Colocasia esculenta ), other economic aroids, and their wild relatives.

As a 'roundtable' workshop, all participants will be invited to consider and discuss ways in which historical, ethnobotanical, ecological, taxonomic, and genetic approaches can be integrated in order to (i) learn about crop history, (ii) identify priorities for crop development, and (iii) protect wild crop relatives and their habitats.

Note: Anyone attending IBC and working with Araceae is herewith invited to give a short presentation at this workshop. Please contact: Peter Matthews (researchcooperative at gmail dot com).

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Economic Aroids Workshop, IBC 2017

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PJM (Dr Matthews) will attend IBC 2017 in July, and will present a poster for Session T6-10 Capturing biodiversity for food security (organizer: Robert Henry, University of Queensland, Australia).

The poster title will be:  Perception gaps that may explain the status of taro as an “orphan crop”, despite global distribution and value as a starchy root crop and green vegetable.

The date and time for this session are 13:30-15:30 pm, July 28 (Friday), and the talk titles are:

  T6-10-01: Application of Genomics to Enhanced Utilization of Cereal Diversity
Robert Henry (University of Queensland)
T6-10-02: Genetic Dissection of Starch Biosynthesis Diversity for Grain Quality Improvement in Rice
Qiaoquan Liu (College of Agriculture, Yangzhou University)
T6-10-03: Large-scale plant genomics studies and CNGB’s effort in food nutrition development
Shifeng Cheng (BGI-Research)
T6-10-04: Conservation of Oxalis tuberosa, "oca", in Ecuador: an iconic Andean tuber
Hugo Romero-Saltos (Yachay Tech (School of Biological Sciences and Engineering))
T6-10-05: Diversity of edible aquatic plants from Thailand
Pranee Nangngam (Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Naresuan University)
T6-10-06: Utilizing pulses diversity for ensuring food and nutritional security in Asia and Africa
Rajeev Varshney (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT))


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Project proposal - purpose of research

By Research Cooperative, 2017-04-13

Taro, Colocasia esculenta (L.) Schott, is a root crop and leaf vegetable found in tropical to temperate regions of Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas.

Throughout lowland Southeast Asia, wild populations of C. esculenta grow along roadsides, ditches and canals, and on the banks of ponds, streams, and rivers (Fig. 1).

Fig1_JSPSproposal_2016 copy.jpg

  Figure 1  In N. Vietnam, C. menglaensis Yin, Li, & Xu (left), and C. lihengiae Long & Liu (centre) carry the same chloroplast genome as wild C. esculenta in a natural lowland swamp (right) but have species-specific, nuclear genome ITS sequences (Matthews, Ahmed & Nguyen, 2016 “Sympatry of Colocasia esculenta (taro) and its wild relatives in Southeast Asia” Paper presented at 8th World Archaeology Congress, Kyoto, 28. Aug.-2. Sept. 2016).


These rarely studied wild populations are widely used as free sources of food for local people and fodder for local pigs. They actively invade the open habitats created by human activities, spreading vegetatively and by seed, and may represent the most abundant wild vegetable source in Southeast Asia.

To test old and new domestication models (Fig. 2), we will:

(i) map the distribution of wild populations of C. esculenta ,

(ii) record their morphological diversity

(iii) collect leaf tissue samples for DNA analysis, and

(iv) compare the wild populations with cultivated C. esculenta and wild Colocasia species using DNA tests for past hybridization.

models v2 copy 2.jpg

Figure 2  Domestication models: I. Old : linear process, one species (without hybridization). II. New : hybridization & introgression among multiple species, then spread to lowlands, use, selection, and domestication (= ‘floodplain weed theory’ of Smith, 1995, applied to C. esculenta ).

To conduct the research, convene related meetings, and prepare publications, we will establish an international “ Wild Taro Working Group ” composed of local counterparts and others with relevant expertise and interests.

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