Origins & History

ISTRC Symposiums and Presidents
ISTRC President
1 Apr.
University of the West Indies Trinidad and Tobago none
2 Aug.
University of Hawaii USA M L Magoon
3 Dec.
International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Nigeria D G Coursey
4 Aug.
Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT) Colombia D L Plucknett
5 Sept.
Philippines Root Crop Research and Training Centre (PRCRTC) and the Philippines Council for Agricultural and Resources Research (PCARR) Philippines  
6 Feb.
International Potato Centre (CIP) Peru S Sadik
7 Jul.
Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA) Guadeloupe K Caeser
8 Nov.
Department of Agriculture of Thailand, Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT), International Potato Centre (CIP) Thailand  
9 Oct.
Ministry of Agriculture of Ghana Ghana S K Hahn
10 Nov.
EMBRAPA Brazil  
11 Oct.
University of the West Indies Trinidad and Tobago N H Poulter
12 Sept.
National Agricultural Research Centre of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Japan  

Symposium Notes (number corresponds to Symposium number)

1) The historical process leading to the establishment of the International Society for Tropical Root Crops (ISTRC) began in 1964 in Trinidad and Tobago. A group within the University of the West Indies conceived the holding of a series of crop-orientated symposia and, in view of local relevance, "Tropical Root Crops" was selected as the first topic.

Thus, in April 1967, one of the first ever formal meetings of workers on tropical root crops was held at St Augustine. This symposium brought together many hitherto isolated workers from many countries. The benefits were so apparent that there was a unanimous call for the formation of an organization to continue such meetings. A loose association was established, held together by a continuing committee, a newsletter was published and distributed and the University of Hawaii offered to host a second symposium three years later.

2) The ISTRC Constitution was formally adopted and ISTRC came into existence as a legal entity. From that time on, ISTRC has held triennial symposia.

7) Between the 1983 and the 1985 symposia, the Constitution of the Society was revised and updated and the General Meeting of the 1985 Symposium approved replacement of the 1970 Constitution with the newly prepared Constitution. Also, during this period a "Directory for Aroid Researchers" was prepared by the Society.

11) Hosted by the University of the West Indies at St Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the founding of the Society).

General Remarks: ISTRC Symposia and Regional Events

That symposia have all been highly successful and have continued to attract an ever-widening group of participants, is illustrated by the continually increasing size of the proceedings.

In addition to International triennial symposia held by ISTRC, a number of associated and regional events have occurred over the past years. Of particular note have been the activities of the African Branch (AB) of the Society which was formally launched in June, 1978, and since then regular regional symposia have been held. It should be noted that the current President ISTRC-AB, Dr M Akoroda (1998 to present), also serves as Vice-President (Fund Raising) for the Society. It is also appropriate to mention that, although an entirely separate legal entity, the Indian Society for Tropical Root Crops is affiliated to ISTRC.

ISTRC Newsletter

Besides symposia, the other major Society activity has been the publication of the Tropical Root and Tuber Crops Newsletter. The first issue, edited by the Instituto Interamericano de Ciencias Agricolas (IICA), appeared in January, 1968. The main stated purpose was to facilitate communication among the persons working in genetics and breeding of tropical root crops as well as on allied fields.

Subsequently, the Newsletter broadened its scope to cover all aspects of tropical root crop studies and for many years was edited from the Mayaguez Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Puerto Rico.

More recently, the Newsletter has been edited from the Hawaii Institute of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawaii, and latterly by the Natural Resources Institute (NRI) in the United Kingdom and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). The Newsletter, published on an annual basis, is sent free of charge to all members of ISTRC and to anyone else who requests it.

Concluding Remarks

The years since Trinidad in 1967 have seen great changes in tropical agriculture, and root crops are now far more generally accepted as important staples of nutritional and economic importance. Substantial international and national efforts are now being devoted to studying their production and utilization. Three international agricultural research centers, CIAT, CIP, and IITA, have very substantial programs and many national agricultural research, training, and extension institutions now allocate considerable resources to these crops.

It is impossible to quantify how far these changes have been brought about by ISTRC's activities, but its function in creating a world community of tropical root crops workers, and the many contacts, collaborations, and indeed personal friendships, that have been formed at its symposia and other activities, have surely played a significant role in improving the status of these crops.

adapted from material submitted October 2000 by Professor A Westby, ISTRC Councillor for Publications.