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

  • CTA
  • SPC
  • CEPaCT

     genebank locations
    Click on the thumbnail to see a map of the locations of Pacific genebanks. Click here to download a regional directory of genebanks in the Pacific, including information on their location, contact details and holdings.

    PAPGREN partners

    Mr William Wigmore
    Director of Research
    Ministry of Agriculture
    Department of Resources & Development
    P.O. Box 96
    Cook Islands
    Tel: (682) 28711-29720
    Fax: (682) 21881
    Email: cimoa@oyster.net.ck

    Mr Adelino S. Lorens
    Agriculture Pohnpei
    Office of Economic Affairs
    P.O. Box 1028
    Pohnpei 96941
    Federated States of Micronesia
    Tel: (691) 3202400
    Fax: (691) 3202127
    Email: pniagriculture@mail.fm

    Dr Lois Englberger
    Island Food Community of Pohnpei
    Research Advisor
    P.O. Box 2299
    Pohnpei 96941
    Federated States of Micronesia
    Email: nutrition@mail.fm

    Mr Apisai Ucuboi
    Director of Research
    Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forest
    Koronivia Research Station
    P.O. Box 77
    Fiji Islands
    Tel: (679) 3477044
    Fax: (679) 3477546-400262
    Email: apisainu@yahoo.com

    Dr Maurice Wong
    Service du Developpement Rural
    B.P. 100
    Tahiti 98713
    French Polynesia
    Tel: (689) 42 81 44
    Fax: (689) 42 08 31
    Email: maurice.wong@rural.gov.pf

    Mr Tianeti Beenna Ioane
    Head, Research Section
    Division of Agriculture
    Ministry of Environment, Lands and Agricultural Development
    P.O. Box 267
    Tel: (686) 28096-28108-28080
    Fax: (686) 28121
    Email : agriculture@tskl.net.ki; Beenna_ti@yahoo.com

    Mr Frederick Muller
    Ministry of Resources & Development
    P.O. Box 1727
    Majuro 96960
    Marshall Islands
    Tel: (692) 6253206
    Fax: (692) 6257471
    Email: rndsec@ntamar.net

    Mr Herman Francisco
    Bureau of Agriculture
    Ministry of Resources & Development
    P.O. Box 460
    Koror 96940
    Tel: (680) 4881517
    Fax: (680) 4881725
    Email: bnrd@pnccwg.palaunet.com

    Ms Rosa Kambuou
    Principal Scientist PGR
    NARI Dry Lowlands Programme
    Laloki Agricultural Research Station
    P.O. Box 1828
    National Capital District
    Papua New Guinea
    Tel: (675) 3235511
    Fax: (675) 3234733
    Email: kambuou@global.net.pg

    Ms Laisene Samuelu
    Principal Crop Development Officer
    Crops Division
    Ministry of Agriculture, Forests, Fisheries & Meteorology
    P.O. Box 1874
    Tel: (685) 23416-20605
    Fax: (685) 20607-23996
    Email: lsamuelu@lesamoa.net

    Mr Jimi Saelea
    Director of Research
    Department of Agriculture and Livestock
    P.O. Box G13
    Solomon Islands
    Tel: (677) 27987

    Mr Tony Jansen
    Planting Materials Network
    Kastom Gaden Association
    Burns Creek, Honiara
    P.O. Box 742
    Solomon Islands
    Tel: (677) 39551
    Email: kastomgaden@solomon.com.sb

    Mr Finao Pole
    Head of Research
    Ministry of Agriculture & Forests
    P.O. Box 14
    Tel: (676) 23038
    Fax: (676) 24271
    Email: thaangana@hotmail.com

    Mr Frazer Bule Lehi
    Head of Research
    Department of Agriculture & Rural Development
    Private Mail Bag 040
    Port Vila
    Tel: (678) 22525
    Fax: (678) 25265
    Email: flehi@hotmail.com

    Other links

    Other CROP agencies
    Forum Secretariat
    University of the South Pacific

    Pacific biodiversity
    Biodiversity hotspots
    Breadfruit Institute
    Hawaiian native plants
    Intellectual property rights
    Nature Conservancy
    WWF South Pacific Program

    Other Pacific organizations
    Foundation of the Peoples of the South Pacific
    Micronesian Seminar
    Te Puna web directory

    Pacific news
    Cafe Pacific
    CocoNET Wireless
    Island Directory
    Pacific Islands News
    Pacific Islands Report
    Pacific Islands Travel
    Pacific Time
    South Pacific travel
    Time Pacific

    Interested in GIS?



    Sunday, August 31, 2003

    From Lois Englberger in Pohnpei: interesting banana news

    I wanted to share this news with you since we have discussed the vitamin A-rich banana called Taiwang and its promotion. Taiwang banana is now being marketed in Pohnpei! This is at a small shop run by Ana Santos across from the Mobile gas station. I went to her shop this evening and she had Taiwang in her shop! When I asked her how long she had been selling it, she said, "Right after you first told me about Taiwang being high in vitamin A." This was about three months ago, I recorded in my field notes talking to her on May 19. She told me at that time that people had been asking for that banana, but that she had not wanted to sell it because as she said, "I was brought up in the time that that banana was not very important." We had several long discussions at that time in May and she had decided then to try selling it.

    The prices on Taiwang at Ana's shop are:
    - Purchase price from farmer: US$0.15 per pound
    - Selling price to consumer: US$0.25 per pound

    She sells Utin Ruk cooking banana at the same price, Menihle eating banana at US$0.35.

    She told me that she has sold about 40 bunches since the time that she started, and that she has no trouble selling it. She said that she had the idea that if she couldn't sell it, she would use it for making something for the food stall that she runs. But, so far she has not had the opportunity to use it for that because she has sold all the Taiwang so quickly. She limits it, buying about 3 bunches per shipment, as she is still running a small produce shop. Her suppliers always ask first about how many Taiwang bunches she would like.

    She said that people are buying the Taiwang for three things:

    1- making pihlolo
    2- making doughnuts
    3- making rais dol uht, which means rice with banana (substitute that for rice duluj) and is made with coconut cream

    People like Taiwang because it is sweet and has a good taste. She has eaten rice cooked with Taiwang, as prepared by others, and she said that it has a very good taste. One woman told her that they had heard about Taiwang having high levels of Vitamin A and that is why they wanted to buy it. Also, she said that she is telling people about the health benefits of Taiwang.

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    Thursday, August 21, 2003

    Breadfruit news from Hawaii

    Some of you will have been at the PAPGREN meeting in November last year during which we developed, with the help of Dr Diane Ragone of the National tropical Botanical Gardens, Hawaii and other resource people, a strategy for breadfruit genetic resources conservation and use in the Pacific. I've just received from Diane an update on her activities on breadfruit during the past few months. If you have any comments or suggestions, pass them on to Diane (Ragone@ntbg.org) or myself (LuigiG@spc.int).

    This is what Diane says:

    1. I'm still working, slowly but surely, on the website for the Breadfruit Institute and hope to have that on the Internet in a couple of months.
    2. Cathy Cavaletto has completed all of the fruit quality analysis and taste panels for 20 cultivars, both fresh fruits and chips. University of Hawaii and a lab on the mainland will do the nutritional analysis. We'll be working on the stats and writing it all up, so this should be a nice addition to Lois Englberger's work.
    3. Cynthia Nazario finished her MS thesis in May on tissue culture and she's working on getting a paper written to submit to a peer-reviewed journal.
    4. Nyree Zerega finished her PhD in March on molecular studies of breadfruit and related species. She's doing a post-doc in Minnesota and continuing to work on Artocarpus. She recently submitted a paper to the American Journal of Botany.
    5. I've developed a descriptor set of more than 150 characters for breadfruit and we're working our way through the collection, photographing each character and the accessions.
    6. I was able to spend a week working at Kahanu Garden last month, the first time since January. What a treat. Some of the trees in the collection are showing signs of age and stress and some neglect since they've only been fertilized once and range in age from 13-25 years. I finally convinced the gardeners to start pruning out the dead branches and I'm trying to arrange for a professional arborist to shape and topwork about 40 of the 220 trees. I'm duplicating the core collection at our Kauai garden and will start propagating some of the other varieties as well.
    7. I'd like to start working on proposals to set up a program to start assessing breadfruit diversity in the region.

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    Wednesday, August 20, 2003

    Forests in Oceania

    The FAO Forestry web site has maps of the distribution of forests on a regional and national basis. Here you can see the map for Oceania.

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    Banana and Giant Swamp Taro Workshop, Kolonia, Pohnpei, FSM

    A farmers' workshop was held August 20, 2003, at the Agriculture Office Conference Room in Kolonia, Pohnpei from 9-12 am, organized by the Pohnpei Agriculture Office and the College of Micronesia (COM)-Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) Land Grant Office. The 31 participants included representatives from each of the five municipalities of Pohnpei Island and the outer islands of Mokil, Pingelap, Sapuahfik, and Kapingamarangi and agriculture officers and extension agents. Mr Adelino Lorens, Chief of Agriculture, Mr Jackson Phillips, Associate Director, COM-FSM Pohnpei Campus, and Dr Lois Englberger, University of Queensland, led the meeting. Dr Englberger shared with participants some recent results of nutritional analysis of local food crops, and discussed the health benefits of these crops. Color photos of the bunches, hands, fingers, and flesh of banana varieties and also of the tubers of giant swamp taro were displayed on the wall, creating much interest and discussion. Participants later divided into three working groups and prepared listings of all banana and giant swamp taro varieties now grown in Pohnpei State, noting special characteristics and multiple names (those varieties that may be listed by different names). 60 banana names and 48 giant swamp taro names were documented, although there is still work required to collate the three lists and remove multiple names. A delicious meal was provided of local food only, including various dishes of banana, taro, yam, breadfruit, and fish. Plans were made to meet again in October 2003, once the three listings are synthesized. The workshop was part of a project supported by the PAPGREN project, coordinated by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).

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    Monday, August 18, 2003

    Cook Islands National Agricultural Plant Genetic Resources Stakeholder Workshop

    This workshop will be held 26 – 28th August 2003 at the Manihiki Hostel, Rarotonga, Cook Islands. It is the fourth national PGR stakeholder workshop to be organized in the Pacific region this past year or so with support from the PAPGREN project. Mr William Wigmore, Director of Research at the Ministry of Agriculture, has been putting the workshop together. The expected outputs are as follows:

    1. Increased awareness of PGR, including medicinal plants, conservation and use
    2. Enhanced collaboration among stakeholders
    3. Up-to-date information on PGR activities, including existing collections, threats and genetic erosion, stakeholder institutions, and key contacts
    4. National priority activities, crops, and budgeted three-year workplan
    5. Elements of a national PGR strategy
    6. National coordination mechanism

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    Thursday, August 14, 2003

    Samoa’s endangered atiu vine found in Manua Isles

    This recent article seems to refer to a Cucumis species.

    PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, (Samoa News, Aug. 9) - A native plant said to have disappeared from its natural habitat in the Manu'a islands has now reappeared.

    The atiu vine, a plant with cultural significance that is thought to have vanished from natural habitats Ofu and Ta'u, are growing well on Tutuila where they never grew before. That's according to American Samoa National Park Service (ASNPS) field technician Tavita Togia.

    It has been transplanted in Fagasa where it exists today although there is no written record of the atiu having grown before on Tutuila soil.

    Thought to have completely died out at its natural growth areas Ofu and Tau, the vine was last collected in 1991 by noted Pacific botanist Dr. Art Whistler at the Fitiuta airstrip (Tau Island). In his book "Plants in the Samoan Culture", Whistler surmised the plant had disappeared from natural habitats on Ta'u and Ofu islands in 1991.

    Ten years later in 2001, it was rediscovered at the same area by Togia.

    He took the plants and replanted them in the Fagasa reforestation project immediately after, a project controlled jointly by ASNPS and the Fagasa Village Council.

    Whistler had determined in 1991 that although the plant had disappeared, it still had many seeds lying dormant in the ground and needed to be disturbed to give shoot. "The soil had to be disturbed in order for the seeds to germinate and give shoot," Tavita told Samoa News. "This is exactly what happened in 2001 at the Fitiuta airstrip."

    Togia said it was fortunate machinery belonging to the construction company which did work at the airstrip had provided the needed disturbing of the soil. The act may have caused the seeds lying dormant in the ground to germinate and provide shoot as it did.

    The National Park technician said he shifted the plants from the Manu'a airstrip to the Fagasa Reforestation Project.

    "The vines have grown well at Fagasa," Togia said "and they are the only atiu plants known to have grown on Tutuila island. There is no record of any growing on Tutuila before."

    A plant of cultural significance, Whistler said it was decreasing in popularity with the people. "The plant is now rare in Samoa and the name is nearly forgotten,' he wrote.

    Togia said when he took samples of the regrown plants from his discovery in 2001 to several Manu'a people for identification; he said many did not know what plant was. "Many mentioned names of other plants for the atiu, but out of close to ten people I questioned, only one was able to identify it correctly, a Manu'a man by the name of Patea," he said.

    A noted member of the To'oto'o Council of Orators is named Atiulagi (atiu from/of heaven) after the plant according to Manu'a sources. Little else is known of its cultural importance.

    The plant is has been reported to be one of the imports of the original Samoans in the Samoan archipelago. It is reported to have flourished in the Marquesas (Nuku Hiva), where it is called katiu (with a 'k') by the natives.

    It is used as ornament, scent agent for its fragrance and food during famine. It is of the cucumber family.

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    Banana diversity in the Solomon Islands

    This from the Permaculture International website.

    PacificEdge MEDIA RELEASE
    Issue date: 26.11.02
    Contact: Russ Grayson pacedge@magna.com.au
    Phone/fax (61) 2 9588 6931 PO Box 446 Kogarah NSW 2217 Australia.

    Plant researchers in the Solomon Islands have discovered an unexpected diversity of banana varieties on the island of Makira. A total of 81 different varieties have been collected and planted in a large garden which functions as a field gene bank at a rural training centre. When the collection is further developed a 'banana diversity fair' may be held in 2003. The diversity fair may receive support from European Union Micro Projects, an aid funding body. During the fair, farmers will visit the training centre and take part in a 'festival of bananas' to share varieties, recipes, stories and knowledge about growing and using bananas.

    The collection is being carried out by a partnership of the Solomon Islands Planting Material Network and the Manivovo Rural Training Centre on the isolated weather coast of Makira. The Solomon Islands Planting Material Network (PMN) is a national association of farmers, aid and other organisations which produces, processes and distributes the seed of agricultural plants to members. Established in 1996, the PMN works to increase regional self-reliance in seed supply and to contribute to the food security of the Solomon Islands.

    "Manivovo is a vocational training centre for girls run by the Catholic Church. The PMN chose Makira Province to do the banana collection because bananas are very important to food security and many Makira people consider that they have more varieties of banana than other parts of Solomon Islands", said PMN adviser Tony Jansen. "The Makira collection is an important first step in helping farmers to continue to grow, manage and make use of their banana diversity. All too often, people forget the important cultural heritage that different varieties of food plants represent. If people of Makira lose their banana varieties then they are losing an important part of their culture they can never get back again. I hope this collection and the planned sharing of banana varieties through the Manivovo centre will help farmers continue to manage bananas in their own gardens".

    With help from the Manivovo team, PMN field worker Dorothy Tamasia has spent the last six to eight weeks collecting from coastal villages. She plans to extend her search. "I have yet to make a collection from the highlands and will not do that yet because it would be a tiring job to carry all the banana suckers from the mountains to Kirakira and find transport to get them to Manivovo. I plan to collect from the highlands later and plant them somewhere in the highlands", she said.

    Participating in the work of collection is Manirovo Rural Training Centre's Francis Wehi. He says that farmers have shown an interest in the varieties being established in the garden and that the training centre's students are participating in the work. "We have planted them out in careful rows with each one labelled with its accession number (number given to each specimen to enable later identification), the person who gave the banana, its language name and where it came from. Most of the farmers have never seen so many bananas or thought about trying to put so many together in one place they are very excited."

    "The students will compare banana varieties and then take home different banana suckers with them to plant in their home villages. Interested farmers, including members of the PMN, will be able to come and get suckers from the collection. Bananas are a very important source of food for Makira people and we want to make sure we are not losing our different varieties", said Francis.

    A participatory approach and the passing on of skills are key attributes of the approach taken by the PMN and its sister organisation, the Kastom Gaden Association. "Our students are doing all the work. They will learn how to describe the bananas using scientific methods taught to us by the PMN", explained Mr Wehi.

    Speaking from the Solomon Islands capital of Honiara where the PMN has an extensive seed production garden, Tony said that bananas are believed to have been domesticated in Melanesia thousands of years ago. "We should expect, and we know, that there are a lot of varieties all over Solomon Islands. Domestication means that farmers in the past actively selected wild varieties and improved them through selection. We know from looking in markets and talking with farmers that there is a lot of diversity here but we do not really have much idea how many varieties farmers have and how they are looking after those varieties over time.

    "Bananas are important to nutrition and food security. Varieties used for cooking can provide food for up to 20 years if they are well maintained. They are nutritious and people like eating them. They have a lot of traditional ways of cooking them. "We should encourage people to plant more bananas as they are a more intensive way of using land than growing only sweet potato. This is important in areas where there is shortage of land for agriculture. Bananas are not damaged by wild or domestic pigs and grow well in wet weather when root crops fail".

    "Next year we will use morphological descriptors developed by the International Network for the Improvement of Bananas and Plaintains to describe the physical features of the bananas and their fruit at Manivovo. This will be done by Manivovo students with help from the PMN and will demonstrate to students how practical scientific knowledge can be used to validate traditional knowledge and the understanding of banana varieties, their growing needs and uses", said Tony.

    "Hopefully, it will also teach them to respect the plant breeding and selection skills of their ancestors", he added. Farmers contributing to the banana collection receive free membership of the PMN and some seeds. The membership makes possible participation in PMN activities, the sharing of seeds with other farmers and obtaining further supplies of seed. "The farmers have been very willing to share the banana suckers we collected. We will give those farmers a chance to get new banana varieites from the collection in Manivovo later on", said Dorothy. The collection of bananas is supported by a small grant from the Seed Savers Network, an Australian non-government organisation.

    The PMN earlier participated in TaroGen, a taro (taro is a staple root crop of the Pacific Islands and South East Asia) collection project which identified a surprisingly large number of varieties and displayed them at a 'taro diversity fair'.

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    Tuesday, August 12, 2003

    Tuvalu and sea-level rise

    The following is a recent Guardian article on the effect the threat of sea-level rise is having on the population of Tuvalu.

    David Fickling in Sydney
    Saturday July 19, 2003
    The Guardian

    Faced with the prospect of being swamped by rising sea levels, the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu is considering evacuating its 9,300 residents. With a highest point just five metres above sea level, Tuvalu is one of the world's most low-lying countries. Half its population is crammed on the 30 hectare (75 acre) Funafuti atoll, which is only three metres above the waves.

    With global sea levels predicted to rise by more than 80cm over the next century, Tuvaluans are living on borrowed time. The only solution, according to the government, is to transport the entire population overseas.

    "We don't know when the islands will be completely covered," says secretary to the Tuvalu government Panapasi Nelesone. "But we need to start working on this now."

    Nearly 3,000 Tuvaluans already live overseas, and a government programme is now relocating 75 more every year.

    But Tofiga Falani, the president of the Tuvalu Congregational church, says that more urgent action is needed. "We must know that someone will be able to provide land for us, before a storm washes our islands away altogether," he said.

    He is in Melbourne this week lobbying Australia to set aside land to serve as a new home for Tuvalu's people when they finally quit their nine inhabited atolls.

    Fresh data on sea level rises have given a new urgency to his concerns. The consensus last year from Australia's national tide facility (NTF), which monitors Pacific ocean, levels, was that there had been no significant changes around Tuvalu for 10 years.

    Some analysts even suggested that the aftermath of El Nino could cause sea levels in the area to drop by up to 30cm in future. That view is changing.

    The most recent figures suggest that Tuvalu's sea levels have risen nearly three times as fast as the world average over the past decade, and are now 5cm higher than in 1993.

    The NTF's Bill Mitchell says that such figures should still be regarded as provisional. "We've had a large El Nino which appears to have raised sea levels across the western Pacific, so rises in future may well not be as dramatic."

    Tuvaluans are used to seeing islets vanish beneath the waves with cyclones, but their country is likely to become uninhabitable long before the waves finally close over them.

    Islanders already drink from rainwater tanks to preserve the atolls' scanty groundwater, but the seepage of salt water into farmland has destroyed crops and made islanders dependent on canned imports.

    Tuvalu's Polynesian people arrived in the islands 2,000 years ago by way of Tonga, Samoa and Tokelau, but international borders mean fewer relocation options are available. The neighbouring state of Kiribati has dozens of uninhabited islands, but it is facing its own population pressures.

    Eleniu Poulos, president of UnitingJustice Australia, a church agency, says that the Tuvaluans should be granted one of the uninhabited islands at the northern end of the Great Barrier Reef.

    "You spell an end to a culture if you split them up, but they would be happy to give up their national sovereignty as long as they're able to stay together. Australia has no shortage of land," she said.

    Canberra's immigration department is believed to take a dim view of the Tuvaluan desire for land to call their own.

    But Panapasi Nelesone says: "We cannot just float on the water hoping that the sea will go down again."

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    Monday, August 11, 2003

    Yam viruses

    Apparently, the YMMV is not found in the Pacific, which means the Regional Germplasm Centre has to be very careful about distributing D. rotundata material from other regions. Here's the abstract of a very recent paper on the virus

    Origin, world-wide dispersion, bio-geographical diversification, radiation and recombination: an evolutionary history of Yam mild mosaic virus (YMMV)
    Mustapha Bousalem, Sylvie Dallot, Shinichi Fuji and Kieko T. Natsuaki
    Present address: USDA/ARS/USHRL, 2001 South Rock Road, Fort Pierce, 34945 FL, USA.
    Infection, Genetics and Evolution, (July 08, 2003), 10.1016/S1567-1348(03)00085-6

    Abstract: We developed an evolutionary epidemiological approach to understand the regional and world-wide dispersion of Yam mild mosaic virus (YMMV) by retracing its evolutionary history. Analyses of the distribution and the prevalence of YMMV in the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, and in French Guyana revealed that YMMV has a wide repartition and different prevalence on Dioscorea alata L. (Asian and Oceanic origin), on D. cayenensis Lam.–D. rotundata Poir. (African origin) and on D. trifida L. (Amazon and the Caribbean origin) in this region. Considering the data on the current dispersion of the virus and the evolution and the history of the yams, the phylogenetic analysis of the 3' terminal part of the YMMV genome gave a consistent support of the Asian-Pacific origin of YMMV from D. alata species. The YMMV phylogenetic tree is star-like, suggesting an early split of the genetic lineages. An important part of the clades is constituted by a single lineage arisen by recombination. The largest emerging monophyletic group illustrates well YMMV geographical dispersion. This evolutionary pattern contrasts with the one revealed by the African distinct lineages and by the second significant monophyletic group, for which a host adaptation to D. trifida is suggested. The analysis of the pattern of nucleotide substitutions in the CP gene revealed that purifying selection dominates the evolution of the CP of potyviruses and strongly operates on the YMMV. Switching events, radiation, host and geographical adaptation and recombination events are proposed as major traits of YMMV evolutionary history.

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    Traditional crops and nutrition

    Three papers by Lois Englberger et al. on the nutritional content of Pacific traditional food can be found in a recent issue of the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis:

    Provitamin A carotenoid content of different cultivars of edible pandanus fruit
    Lois Englberger, William Aalbersberg, Maureen H. Fitzgerald, Geoffrey C. Marks and Kishore Chand
    Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, 2003, 16:2:237-247

    Further analyses on Micronesian banana, taro, breadfruit and other foods for provitamin A carotenoids and minerals
    Lois Englberger, William Aalbersberg, Praveen Ravi, Evelyn Bonnin, Geoffrey C. Marks, Maureen H. Fitzgerald and Jane Elymore
    Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, 2003, 16:2:219-236

    Micronesian banana, taro, and other foods: newly recognized sources of provitamin A and other carotenoids
    Lois Englberger, Joseph Schierle, Geoffrey C. Marks and Maureen H. Fitzgerald
    Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, 2003, 16:1:3-19

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    A couple of articles reproduced by PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT caught me eye this morning


    SYDNEY, Australia (ABC News Online, Aug. 9) - A health clinic for Tongans in New Zealand that is targeting high diabetes rates and related blindness is hoping its model can be duplicated in other Pacific Island nations where diabetes is rife.

    Simple eye check-ups would go a long way to preventing blindness or treating it in its early stages, Eseta Finau said, a nurse at the Tongan Health Society's Langamalie clinic in South Auckland which has 10,000 patients.

    She says a pilot program at the clinic to screen for diabetes and blindness would be ideal for other Pacific Island communities in New Zealand and beyond.

    The clinic provides the expertise of dietitians, podiatrists, pharmacists and eye specialists and offers advice to patients in their own language on how to prevent diabetes as well as seek treatment if they already suffer from it.

    The work of the clinic is being highlighted as part of a month-long campaign to raise awareness throughout New Zealand about diabetes and its link to blindness.

    "Sight loss through diabetes has the potential to become an epidemic in some New Zealand communities," Anthony Haas said, president of Retina New Zealand.

    His organization is joining with the New Zealand Association of Optometrists and the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind in August's month-long "Save Our Sight" campaign and says diabetes is one of the most common diseases affecting New Zealanders' eyesight.

    "Diabetes affects a startling number of people in this country - 150,000 New Zealanders have diabetes, and another 100,000 more remain at risk although they are unaware of it," he said.

    "It is important that diabetics realize that there is a strong link between the disease and going blind and be extra vigilant about their eye health."

    He says Pacific Island people and Maori are more likely to develop diabetes than Europeans.

    Currently diabetic retinopathy causes 80 per cent of blindness among Pacific people in New Zealand and is also responsible for the onset of cataracts.

    Dr Sitaleki Finau, who heads the Tongan Health Society, said in a recent Pacific Citizens Decision Maker newsletter that improving the health of Pacific Islanders by addressing lifestyle would only work if the focus was on the community as a whole rather than individual behaviour.

    "Lifestyle is not an individual thing for Pacific people," Dr Finau said.

    "For them it is a family, community, national way of thinking."

    Eseta Finau said changing eating habits that could cause diabetes was difficult because fatty foods such as tinned corn beef, turkey tails and mutton flaps were cheaper than low-fat chicken, pork and fish.

    While fish was a traditional staple of the Polynesian diet, there was more status attached to meat these days, she said.

    Dr Finau says he does not understand why New Zealand does not have an agricultural policy that would make traditional vegetables eaten by Pacific Islanders such as taro, yam and kumara (sweet potato) more affordable and accessible.

    "If people are more knowledgeable about the risk factors associated with eye disease, they are more likely to use existing or their own culturally appropriate health services," he said.

    "But everyone needs to remember that managing diabetes includes looking after your diet and making sure you get regular exercise."


    PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Aug. 11) - Agriculture Minister Moses Maladina has announced new measures to control highly irregular trade and export of vanilla in the country.

    These measures include the increase in license fees, six months ban on issue of new license, restriction of export to PNG national companies only and imposition of a levy on every kilogram exported.

    Maladina said the measures were necessary in light of the irregularities in vanilla trade and export from the country, particularly along the Vanimo border to Jayapura.

    He said in a statement the government was concerned that a very high number of vanilla export licenses were granted to exporters who in many cases do not have farmer and crop base and many were foreign.

    Maladina said he used his powers under the Spice Industry Act to place a moratorium on issuance of new vanilla export registration and license for a period of six months.

    He said there are already far too many export licenses and that the industry needs to reassess its trading needs to conform with existing export requirements imposed by various authorities such as quarantine, customs, immigration, Investment Promotion Authority and the PNG Spice Industry Board.

    "This moratorium does not affect current registered/licensed exporters as their operation must be maintained to facilitate trade and allow farmers to continue to sell their crops.

    "Furthermore, a review of the current licensing system will be carried out to ensure that there is accountability in the exporters export practice for vanilla and that genuine farmers/vanilla crop based trades operate within the confines of the administrative requirements imposed by various authorities such as Internal Revenue Commission and Customs, Quarantine, IPA, Immigration and the PNG Spice Industry Board."

    Maladina said export registrations and licenses will be issued exclusively to PNG national and PNG incorporated companies that are legally registered with Investment Promotion Authority, registered with the Internal Revenue Commission, controlled and operated by PNG Nationals, have substantive permanent establishment such as office and other assets in PNG.

    "This is aimed at promoting national and community-based entrepreneurship in the spice industry," he said.

    The current registration and license fee of K300 has been increased to K1,000 for vanilla.

    He said this would allow genuine traders who deal with vanilla, and would reduce the level of spice export applications to only genuine industry operators.

    The vanilla trade has become substantial with a value estimated more than K70 million and that prices have further increased to over K600 per kilogram.

    He called for grades and standards to be enforced to ensure that PNG exports are competitive.

    Maladina said a spice export levy of K10 per kilogram would be imposed on all vanilla exports to better manage interventions in the industry, and to facilitate the government's role to enforce quality and a certification system for the vanilla trade.

    The PNG Spice Industry Board will collect this levy, which is authorized under the Spice Industry Act (1989).

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    Friday, August 08, 2003

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    Thursday, August 07, 2003

    Kava on the brain

    This from a recent New Scientist (19 July 2003) Q&A.


    I recently drank some of the interesting root-based drink kava on the Pacific island of Vanuatu. I'm happy to report that it had some odd effects. What exactly did it do to my brain?

    Robert Steers , Galston, New South Wales, Australia


    1. Because your correspondent drank the kava in Vanuatu, it may have been made using either fresh or dried roots, while in other countries where kava is drunk ­ namely, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa ­ it is almost exclusively prepared from dried roots. Vanuatu kava, especially that from fresh material, is much more potent and its effects tend to be greater. The active chemical ingredients in kava, called kavalactones, produce a number of effects in both the brain and the rest of the body. Initially the tongue becomes numb, as does the inner lining of the mouth. Some of the other effects may depend on the familiarity of the user with the drink. A novice user may find the drink bitter or sour and that food loses its taste and flavour. Nausea may follow, along with headache and intestinal discomfort, effects not experienced by the habitual drinker.

    In contrast to alcohol, kava used in moderate amounts produces a calming effect, reduces fatigue, allays anxiety and stress, and induces a generally pleasant, cheerful and sociable attitude. It is partly for these reasons that it has been consumed in South Pacific communities for hundreds of years as a social drink. One hears expressions like, "you cannot hate with kava in you" and "unlike liquor, kava does not provoke aggressive, boisterous or violent behaviour". Nor does it cause the hangovers, physical addiction, memory loss or diminished reasoning associated with alcohol.
    Kavalactones have been shown to produce a number of biological effects in the brain that could account for the above observations. They include the compounds' ability to produce a local anaesthetic-like effect ­ hence the numbing of the tongue ­ and to act on drug receptors in a similar way to some anxiety and stress medications such as benzodiazepine. As a result, kava was introduced in the western world to treat anxiety, stress, restlessness and sleep disorders.
    However, less positive effects have been reported with the use of excessive amounts of kava, and in a few cases where it has been combined with medical drugs.

    There have been some reports of kava causing liver damage in people who live in western nations where it has been used in the form of pills and other such preparations. Consequently, some countries have suspended the sale of kava or issued health advisories. As this medical condition has not been reported in traditional kava drinkers, it is unclear whether it is directly associated with kava itself, or with the manufacturing process or some other factors. In any case, kava is still widely drunk by people from the South Pacific, including myself ­ I am originally from Fiji.

    Yadhu Singh , Brookings, South Dakota, US

    2. Exactly how kava acts on the brain is unknown. Benzodiazepine anti-anxiety drugs work by stimulating the brain's gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptor proteins, which regulate signal transmission between nerve cells, but kava is not thought to work on GABA and is also thought to act in a different way to the opioid drugs. It may work on the brain's limbic system, located in the medial temporal lobe of the brain, which is involved in controlling emotions. There has been speculation that it may antagonise the neurotransmitter chemical dopamine.

    Jamie Horder , Oxford, UK

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    Pacific climate

    This page offers a subsample of publications relevant to CLIVAR Pacific in the peer-reviewed literature. Currently, only papers from 2002 onward are included. Note, that only a subset of journals is traced at present stage. CLIVAR is an international research programme addressing many issues of natural climate variability and anthropogenic climate change. As part of the wider World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), CLIVAR is giving insights into the working of the climate system and hence answers to important questions. WCRP works in partnership with the International Geosphere Biosphere Programme (IGBP) and International Human Dimensions Programme (IHDP).

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    Tuesday, August 05, 2003

    Papaya in Guam

    By Katie Worth

    Papaya, anyone?

    A year ago, it looked like Guam residents might not be able to make that offer much longer, as the island's papaya crops were being razed by an imported killer three millimeters long -- the papaya mealybug.

    Fortunately, however, scientists have come to the rescue and Guam's papaya crops are now growing their way back to health.

    In June of 2002, Rangaswamy Muniappan of the University of Guam's Agricultural Experiment Station, with the help of biological control specialists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, began releasing three species of microscopic, stingless wasps imported from Puerto Rico to combat the destructive papaya mealybugs.

    According to Muniappan, the parasitic wasp seeks out a mealybug and deposits an egg inside of it. The egg then grows into a larva, and essentially eats the mealybug from the inside out, thereby killing it, he said.

    "It's been very, very successful," said USDA biological control specialist Dale Meyerdirk, noting that at sites they've been monitoring for the last year, papaya mealybug populations have dropped by more than 95 percent.

    Farmer Bernard Watson, who said his papaya crop was destroyed by the bugs before the parasites were released, corroborated the data.

    "The parasites have done an excellent job at controlling the (mealybug) population," Watson said. "Before they started releasing them, ... it was pretty bad. It almost brought a lot of people's productions to a halt."

    The papaya mealybug originated in Mexico, Meyerdirk explained, and at some point jumped to islands in the Caribbean. When those islands' papaya crops were wiped out, scientists went to Mexico to find the natural enemy of the pests.

    Scientists found the parasites that kill the Papaya mealybugs, and after sending them to a facility in Delaware for extensive research into any possible negative environmental consequences, they introduced them to the Caribbean islands, and later to the U.S. mainland, which the bug later infested. Those programs were successful, Meyerdirk said.


    So when the papaya-killing bug found its way to Guam, probably by hitchhiking on some imported fruits, the obvious solution was to import the parasites as well, Meyerdirk said.

    The papaya mealybug has spread from Guam to Palau, Muniappan said, adding that he, Meyerdirk and USDA entomologist Richard Warkentin flew to Palau last weekend to establish a similar biological control program there. Muniappan said the bug had not yet been reported on Hawaii or other Pacific islands.

    The bug has an impact on many species of plants, Muniappan said, including hibiscus and the ubiquitous plumeria. He said the bugs' saliva is toxic to the plants, so when the bugs pierce the plants to suck out the sap, they poison them.

    The parasites shouldn't present a problem to the island, Meyerdirk said, because their population decreases as the mealybug's population decreases.

    "But the parasite will never totally eliminate its host because if it did that it would die out," he said.

    There are other species of mealybugs, including the pink hibiscus mealybug, that also plague Guam. Similar biological controls exist for those bugs, but so far they haven't been implemented because they affect mostly ornamental plants, therefore, there is less pressure to fund those projects.

    But at least the papaya mealybugs are no longer a scourge to the island, Muniappan said.

    "Right now this problem on Guam is solved, and it didn't cost the farmers anything," Muniappan said. "They are satisfied because last year at this time they couldn't plant papaya."

    The island's farmers are again growing papayas, now that an introduced species of papaya-killing mealybug has been mitigated by another introduced insect.

    Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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    Monday, August 04, 2003

    Coconuts in PNG

    A piece in The National yesterday discussed the visit to PNG by Dr Ponniah Rethinam, executive director of Asia Pacific Coconut Community (APPC). Dr Rethinan will be coming to Fiji in a couple of week.


    PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Aug. 4) - The National Government and the Kokonas Indastri Koporesan (KIK) are looking at using other parts of the coconut to generate cash instead of relying only on copra. Executive officer Ted Sitapai said KIK would encourage producers to diversify after holding discussions with Dr Ponniah Rethinam, executive director of Asia Pacific Coconut Community (APPC). Agriculture Minister Moses Maladina agreed that lots of useful products could be extracted from the coconut and he was hoping that with more discussions, the government could look at promoting these other products.

    Dr Rethinam said the palm tree popularly known as "Tree of Life", "Tree of Heaven" or "Nature's Supermarket" had a long history of providing man with useful materials for his daily life like food, drink, medicine, fuel, shelter and wealth. He said more than 100 products can be derived from the roots to the tops of the coconut for commercial purposes in homes, cottage industries as well as big industry.

    Food products from the sap (juice) of the coconut include brown sugar, toffee, beverage, toddy, vinegar and confectionary jelly, which have huge markets in the United States and Asia. The young coconut can be canned as syrup, while mature coconut can be turned into desiccated coconut, low fat desiccated coconut, roasted coconut paste, sweetened coconut strips and coconut oil.
    Dr Rethinam, on his first visit to PNG, said much more can be produced from a coconut including medicine for the heart and liver.
    He said research has also shown and constant intake of the coconut juice can "remove or slow" down HIV/AIDS. "Coconut oil has been a life saver for many people. The health and nutritional benefits derived from coconut oil is unique and compelling. Coconut oil can play a very vital role in the removal of the HIV/AIDS virus," he said. He said the coconut oil was worth about US$439 million, while the desiccated coconut market was worth US$679 million.

    Dr Rethinam said PNG was one of the largest producers of copra in the world but was falling behind due to various reasons.
    He called on the PNG Government to encourage rural production, which could be done by individuals and families but the processing part should be done as a society or a community. He suggested that 10 to 15 integrated pilot projects in production and processing would create lots of employment and spin-offs and they should be wholly managed and run by those involved in production and processing of the coconut. "I will not accept that coconut is a dying industry, coconut industry can never die," he said. "The problem is we have never tapped the potential properly and fully and if we're not going to be competitive, we're going to die."

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    Sunday, August 03, 2003


    There's lots of information on ecotourism on the UNEP website, including this on a couple of (relatively) recent conferences on tourism and sustainable development on small islands.

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