A blog maintained by Tevita Kete, PGR Officer
Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva, Fiji Islands
This weblog documents the activities of Pacific Agricultural Genetic Resources Network (PAPGREN), along with other information on plant genetic resources (PGR) in the Pacific.
The myriad varieties found within cultivated plants are fundamental to the present and future productivity of agriculture. PAPGREN, which is coordinated by the Land Resources Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), helps Pacific countries and territories to conserve their crop genetic diversity sustainably, with technical assistance from the Bioversity International (BI) and support from NZAID and ACIAR.
SPC also hosts the Centre of Pacific Crops and Trees (CEPaCT). The CEPaCT maintains regional in vitro collections of crops important to the Pacific and carries out research on tissue culture technology. The CEPaCT Adviser is Dr Mary Taylor (MaryT@spc.int), the CEPaCT Curator is Ms Valerie Tuia (ValerieT@spc.int).
PAPGREN coordination and support
Mr William Wigmore
Mr Adelino S. Lorens
Dr Lois Englberger
Mr Apisai Ucuboi
Dr Maurice Wong
Mr Tianeti Beenna Ioane
Mr Frederick Muller
Mr Herman Francisco
Ms Rosa Kambuou
Ms Laisene Samuelu
Mr Jimi Saelea
Mr Tony Jansen
Mr Finao Pole
Mr Frazer Bule Lehi
Interested in GIS?
Thursday, January 30, 2003
Posted 3:57 PM by Luigi
There's a news piece on the launch of PAPGREN, and a copy of the Pacific Regional Action Plan, at the bottom of this IPGRI webpage.
Got reasonably positive news yesterday from CTA regarding possible collaboration on the Third Taro Symposium and a priority-setting workshop for Micronesia. We'll be working to prepare proposals etc. in the next few days. The plan is to finalize the programme of the Taro Symposium next week. Dr Coosje Hoogendoorn, IPGRI Deputy Director General (Programmes), will be invited to give an address during the opening session.
Tuesday, January 28, 2003
Posted 1:49 PM by Luigi
We've just received a copy of the JCAS Symposium Series No. 16, entitled Vegeculture in Eastern Asia and Oceania. It has interesting articles on taro, sweet potato and breadfruit etc. Here's the contents:
CHAPTER ONE: STUDIES OF VEGECULTURE IN JAPAN - THEIR OROGINS AND DEVELOPMENT
Studies of Vegeculture in Japan -Their Origins and Development
CHAPTER TWO: ROOT CROPS, VEGECULTURE, AND SEED CULTURE
The Origins and Spread of Tuber Crops (Imo)
Wild Food Plants and Vegeculture
Crop-Raising Techniques in Asian Rice Culture: Resemblances to Root and Tuber Crop Cultivation
Domestication and Cultivation of Edible Job's Tears (Coix lacryma-jobi subsp. ma-yuen) under the Influence of Vegeculture
CHAPTER THREE: TARO IN EASTERN ASIA AND OCEANIA
Taro Cropping Systems in the Southeast Asian-Pacific Region: An Archaeological Update
Morphological and Genetic Variation in Cultivated and Wild Taro
Taro in Japan, and its Dispersal in East and Southeast Asia
Taro Storage Systems
Peter J. MATTHEWS
Archaic Crop or Awkward Crop?: Taro Cultivation in the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea
CHAPTER FOUR: VEGECULTURAL CROPS AND SYSTEMS IN OCEANIA
Tropical Agroforestry, Coastal Lagoons, and Holocene Prehistory in Greater Near Oceania
John Edward TERRELL
Breadfruit Storage and Preparation in the Pacific Islands
The Cultivation and Use of Taro and Fruit Pandanus among the Duna of the Aluni Valley in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea, with Comparative Notes
Pamela J. STEWART & Andrew STRATHERN
Two Anga Vegeculture Systems in New Guinea: Technical and Cultural Specificities in the Utilization of Some Seasonal Trees
Pascale BONNEMÈRE & Pierre LEMONNIER
Intensification of Food Production and Land Use in Papua New Guinea
Vegeculture as Food Security for Pacific Communities
Chapter FIVE: ASSIMILATING NEW ROOT CROPS
Sweet Potato in Japan: Its Origin and Use
Nga Riwai Maori:
The Perpetuation of Relict Potato Cultivars within Maori Communities in New Zealand
You can obtain a copy by contacting the publishers, the Japan Centre for Area Studies, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, January 27, 2003
Posted 5:29 PM by Luigi
So Tony Horwitz did find the red banana of Niue in the end (see last entry). One lady had it growing in her garden, having collected the seeds from the wild. It is called "hulahula", is straight, thick stalked, with broad leaves. The bunch goes straight up and the fruit is seeded, with red flesh which goes black and then falls down. The juice of the stem is purplish. It used to be eaten on Niue, but now it is just the leaves that are used, apparently. Suzanne Sharrock of INIBAP tells me it is probably a wild Australimusa species - probably Musa maclayii, which is native to the Pacific. An interesting example of germplasm exploration from the mainstream press...
In other news, had a meeting today with Dr Lawrence Kenyon, a plant pathologist at the Natural Resources Institute in the UK. He's particularly interested in yams and we talked about organizing an international meeting on Dioscorea. We're going to look for EU funds. He also alerted me to the 13th Triennial Symposium of the International Society for Tropical Root Crops (ISTRC), to be held 9–15 Nov. 2003 in Arusha, Tanzania.
Thursday, January 23, 2003
Posted 2:23 PM by Luigi
I've been reading "Into The Blue" by Tony Horwitz. He's an American journalist and the book is an account of his recent travels to some key places visited by Captain Cook during his three voyages to the Pacific in the late 18th century. The reason I mention it here is that it includes an interesting account of Horwitz's search in Niue for the red banana (called hulahula) which the islanders apparently used to colour their teeth and scare Cook. As a result, he called the place the Savage Island. You can read reviews of the book here and here. Haven't got to the bit where he finds it yet, will keep you posted.....
Wednesday, January 22, 2003
Posted 5:11 PM by Luigi
This week I've been working with Laisene Samuelu (email@example.com) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forests, Fisheries & Meteorology in Samoa to organize a national PGR workshop. We hope to hold the event 12-14 February. When I go, I'll also visit the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the University of the South Pacific's Alafua Campus, which houses the School of Agriculture.
We've also been making some progress in organizing the Third Taro Symposium in late May. We now have about 30 abstract and it is a matter of making a final selection and then making sure we have enough funds to bring everyone to Fiji. We hope to hear from CTA soon about support. We have already secured funds from FAO and Japan but still need more.
In the meantime, the northern island of Vanua Levu is struggling to recover from cyclone Ami. About a dozen people are dead or missing, and damage is estimated at US$ 25 million. And it looks like another storm may be brewing...
Sunday, January 19, 2003
Posted 12:20 PM by Luigi
Information on a project on breadfruit in the Marshall Islands.
In the breadfruit we have one of the planet's great food producers in its realm. Artocarpus altilis is widely known through its romanticized name and dramatized history.
The breadfruit tree is native to a large Pacific Ocean area extending from New Guinea through the Indo-Malayan Archipelago to Western Micronesia. It was widely spread in the Pacific area by migrating Polynesians, and Hawaiians believe it was brought from the Samoa to Oahu in the 12th Century A.D. Breadfruit was first seen by Europeans in the Marquesas in 1595, then in Tahiti in 1606. At the beginning of the 18th Century, the early English explorers were loud in its praises, and its fame, together with several periods of famine in Jamaica between 1780 and 1786, inspired plantation owners in the British West Indies to petition King George III to import seedless breadfruit trees to provide food for their slaves. The ill-fated journey of the H.M.S. Bounty ("Mutiny on the Bounty") was one such breadfruit importation endeavor.
A 1921reports lists 200 cultivars of breadfruit in the Marquesas. In a 1966 South Pacific Commission report, there were described 166 named sorts of breadfruit from Tonga, Niue, Western and American Samoa, Papua and New Guinea, New Hebrides, Rotuma and Fiji.
Like the banana and plantain, the breadfruit may be eaten ripe as a fruit or under ripe as a vegetable. For the latter purpose, it is picked while still starchy and is boiled or, in the traditional Pacific Island fashion, roasted in an underground oven on pre-heated rocks. Sometimes it is cored and stuffed with coconut before roasting. Malayans peel firm-ripe fruits, slice the pulp and fry it in syrup or palm sugar until it is crisp and brown
A current project in the Marshall Islands reports great success is being achieved in the grafting of the breadfruit cultivars. The USDA approved project (Hatch) is progressing well in collaboration with Ministry of Resources and Development, RMI. Agriculture researchers Dr. Dilip Nandwani along with Research Aid Arwan Soson and Extension agent Jabukja Aikne have been working on this project since last year. Project activities begun with the installation of the field facility at the Marshall Islands Science Station (MISS). Germplasm of more than dozen varieties have been collected and being propagated vegetatively by nursery techniques. Currently, over 500 healthy rootstocks are growing in Betaktak, Mejwan, Mejenwe and several others cultivars. The major breakthrough in the program was achieved recently. Two different varieties of breadfruit were successfully grafted. Several new objectives including distribution of grafted plants to growers’ community and in outer islands are proposed in research plan of phase II of this project.
Local Marshallese breadfruit will be featured at the Taste of the Marshalls event May 9 at Outrigger Marshall Islands Resort.
Wednesday, January 15, 2003
Posted 3:50 PM by Luigi
From The Independent
'Decrepit' banana faces extinction in 10 years
By Charles Arthur, Technology Editor
The banana could slide into extinction within 10 years because it is "genetically decrepit", scientists will warn today.
Because edible bananas are sterile mutants, new varieties cannot easily be produced by natural methods, leaving the fruit vulnerable to attack from pests and disease.
In the 1950s, the once dominant Gros Michel banana was wiped out by a disease caused by a soil fungus. Its successor, the Cavendish, is now threatened by another fungal disease, black Sigatoka. With nothing readily available to replace the Cavendish, the banana business has reached crisis point. According to a report in New Scientist magazine today, it could be gone in 10 years.
"In some ways, the banana today resembles the potato before blight brought famine to Ireland a century and a half ago," said the magazine.
Wild bananas, called Musa acuminata, contain a mass of hard seeds that make them virtually inedible. About 10,000 years ago in Asia, stone age man found a mutant edible variety, without seeds, and grew it using cuttings from the stems. That means that each banana is virtually genetically identical – meaning producing new varieties resistant to pests and diseases is very difficult.
"When some pest or disease comes along, severe epidemics can occur," Geoff Hawtin of the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, based in Rome, told New Scientist.
Emile Frison, head of the International Network for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain (INIBAP) in Montpellier, France, said banana diseases were becoming increasingly difficult to control.
"As soon as you bring in a new fungicide, they develop resistance," he said. "One thing we can be sure of is the Sigatoka won't lose in this battle."
Since starting in Fiji in 1963, Black Sigatoka has spread and has destroyed most of the banana fields in Amazonia. That could cut production there by up to 70 per cent, in the world's second-largest growing area for bananas, after China.
Scientists and planters working on solutions are unable to agree whether to produce genetically modified bananas, or develop fungicide.
"Biotechnology to produce GM bananas resistant to fungi is expensive and there are serious questions about consumer acceptance," said David McLaughlin, senior director of environmental affairs for the banana company Chiquita.
Agrobiodiversity Weblog: For discussions of conservation and sustainable use of the genetic resources of crops, livestock and their wild relatives.