Submitted to: Fruit Gardener
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/11/2002
Publication Date: 11/1/2002
Citation: Goenaga, R.J., Shore, L. 2002. Puerto Rico's Tropical Agriculture Research Station - 100 Years of tropical research. Fruit Gardener. 34:14-21. Interpretive Summary: Interpretive Summary not required.
Technical Abstract: The USDA-ARS, Tropical Agriculture Research Station (TARS) had its beginning in 1901, when Congress appropriated $5,000 and directed the Secretary of Agriculture to establish an experiment station in Puerto Rico to study agricultural problems of interest to the island. When established, TARS was the island's only institution dedicated to agricultural research. In the past, both tropical- and temperate-zone vegetables, as well as fruit and ornamental cultivars, were introduced from all parts of the world for evaluation in Puerto Rico. The station still maintains an extensive collection of germplasm consisting of about 275 genera and 450 species; this is one of the largest collections of tropical trees available in the Western world. The station's grounds are often visited by botanists, horticulturists and taxonomists from around the globe. The period 1901-1930 comprised the early years of the station and were devoted primarily to introducing new varieties of crops to meet the agricultural needs of the island. Since 1935, TARS has gradually modified its research program to the point where most of the study is now concerned with problems relating to national and regional agriculture. As of 2001, the station's accomplishments have been documented in about 1,800 publications. Part of TARS' current mission is conducting agricultural research to introduce, preserve, evaluate, regenerate, distribute and develop cultural and management systems for tropical and subtropical crops of economic importance to the continental and insular U.S. The increase in America's ethnic diversity and changes in public diet habits because of health considerations have opened a large market for tropical and subtropical fruits. Increased production of many tropical fruits, however, is hindered by a lack of basic information on how physiological, horticultural, environmental, entomological and pathological variables affect tropical fruit production systems and how these influence yield. In 1997, projects devoted to evaluating clones of tropical fruit crops for yield, fruit quality and tolerance to pests, diseases and abiotic stresses were established at TARS. Fruit crops under study include banana and plantain Musa spp.), papaya (Carica papaya), mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana), rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum), mamey sapote (Pouteria sapota), sapodilla (Manilkara zapota), and cacao (Theobroma cacao) among others. Besides some history of the station, this article describes botanical and physiological traits, agroenvironmental requirements of these crops and a discussion of some research conducted with them.