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Traditional Breadfruit Agroforestry In The Pacific Islands

May 2021

Varietal Diversity In Breadfruit

The Breadfruit People are currently hosting a series of webinars featuring speakers from the Pacific working toward the environmental, economic, and socio-cultural sustainability of breadfruit IMAGE: Supplied

Studies and direct observations by experts indicate the need for conserving traditional knowledge relating to the varietal diversity in breadfruit.

Dr Lex Thomson says every portion of the breadfruit tree has yielded materials useful to Pacific Islanders, but is principally important as a source of carbohydrates.

“Breadfruit is very high yielding, low input food staple tree crop that’s cultivated now throughout the wet tropics, and from my perspective, I believe it will become the most important tree in the global wet tropics for sustainable food production and regenerative agroforestry systems.”

“It’s one of the 35 crop species identified for their potential to enhance food security and interdependence in the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.”

“This is important because it means that it’s easier to share genetic material or breadfruit under that treaty, and provide benefit back to their owners of that IP.”

Speaking at the Breadfruit People’s Agroforestry Webinar last Friday (7/5), Dr Lex Thomson said genetic and varietal diversity in the breadfruit complex underpins sustainable and productive agroforestry systems in often radically different environments in the Pacific.

“Desirable varieties have been widely distributed in Pacific islands both in ancient and modern times and may have different names in different countries.”

“In Banks and Torres Island (Vanuatu), breadfruit ranks first among cultivated trees with 17 trees per household, while in the Southern Tafea Province, there are 4.5 trees per household.”

“In Samoa, trees are found growing around residences in all villages, and is the most common village tree. Mainly grown for food but also an important building timber.”

“In Fiji, Breadfruit is considered to be in top ten important planted trees by 33 out of 39 respondent groups in 18 villages on the two largest islands. Climate change has induced more sporadic, smaller fruit crops, often over longer periods.”

“Traditional breadfruit agroforests on Pohnpei are incredibly diverse with more than 120 useful plant species and many more breadfruit cultivars. Year round production has been documented with 131 named varieties.”

Dr Lex Thomson is the Associate Adjunct Professor in Pacific Islands Agribusiness and Agroforestry at the University of the Sunshine Coast.

Joining him at the Breadfruit People’s Agroforestry Webinar were Father Petero Matairatu (Tutu Rural Training Centre), Dr Craig Elevitch (Pacific Regional Breadfruit Initiative) and Kyle Stice (Breadfruit People).

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