What hasn’t changed during this pandemic is the need for research trials. In this case, statewide variety trials of conventionally bred taro on the islands of Hawaiʻi and Oʻahu by Extension agents and the Dept. of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences.
What HAS changed is the community’s greater need for food donations. So after the researchers collected data on fresh weights of underground makua corms, percent dry matter, and percent rot; after they compared how well the varieties grow under different environmental conditions; after they grew plants outside the measured rows to ensure uniform growth of varieties; after they harvested taro corms in border areas – they donated the food to various non-profit organizations to help feed communities.
On Hawaiʻi Island, about 175 pounds of taro corms were donated to the culinary arts program of Hawai`i Community College; some were used in their cafeteria and the remainder went to feed those in the Puna district through collaboration with Vibrant Hawaii and Chef Hui programs. In addition, Nicholle Konanui (former CTAHR plant research technician) organized a team of gleaners and harvested about 800 pounds for #FeedThePeopleHI-Puna project. Taro variety trials in Pepe`ekeo were conducted with the assistance of Waiakea Research Station Farm Manager Angel Magno and his crew of agricultural technicians.
On Oʻahu, more than 1,500 pounds of surplus taro corms were donated to a community food drive. The amazing yield and vigorous growth of taro hybrid #1005-84 at Waimanalo Research Station is attributed to their care by Farm Manager Roger Corrales and his crew of agricultural technicians.
“Research is often thought to have benefits over the long-term. In these cases, research resulted in immediate benefits to communities,” Susan Miyasaka, Hawaiʻi County Administrator. “Our faculty and staff are proud to help feed the community during these tough, pandemic times. Mahalo to Jari Sugano and Amjad Ahmad.”
Photo caption: the taro field in Pepeʻekeo, Hawaiʻi, with workers from the Waiakea Research Station: Dayle Tsuha (farm forewoman), Layne Matsushita (retired agricultural technician IV), and Sasha Kovacs (student assistant).