MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Oct. 1) - A new laboratory at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji can now test for viruses causing diseases in one of the major Pacific Island root crops, taro.

The testing is the result of a collaborative effort involving scientists from two universities, the South Pacific Community's Plant Protection Service, the European Union and AusAID.

The new laboratory is at the Institute of Applied Science at the University of the South Pacific's Laucala Campus in Suva.

The testing has been developed by a team from the Queensland University of Technology which has been working of the problem for four years.

Associate Professor Rob Harding of the QUT's Plant Biotechnology Program says transferring the technology into the Pacific was one of the aims.

"We are at the stage now where we have characterized five viruses infecting taro; we've developed some very sensitive and specific diagnostic tests for those viruses; and we're currently in the stage of testing taro germplasm for the presence of these viruses so that material can be moved throughout the Pacific."

A spokesman for the South Pacific Community says it's a major step forward for plant pathology in the Pacific.

October 1, 2003

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