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?
Sunday, September 19, 2004
Posted 3:03 PM by Luigi
Linking farmers to Plant Protection Networks (Solomon Islands)
Thanks to Grahame Jackson for sharing this report.
In the first progress report, I mentioned that PestNet was implementing a 2-year project in north Malaita, Solomon Islands with funds from infoDev World Bank. The project provides remote communities the opportunity to use email to access information and advice on plant pests in a timely manner. Our partners are Kastom Gaden Association, Department of Agriculture and Livestock, People First Network, and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.
To achieve its objective, the Project is working on pest problems of taro, Abelmoschus and watermelon in four villages, and is conducting an awareness campaign in the project area to encourage people to use the email service, which connects them to PestNet.
This report summarises a visit made to north Malaita in August last.
A map of Solomon Islands showing the project site can be viewed at
The awareness programme is planned to start this month. It will be carried out by the Community Field Officer (employed by the Project) and the local agriculture officer. The email station at Silolo continues to function well, and is used by communities near and far, although not yet for agriculture matters.
Pest problems: visits to villages
PRAs and pest surveys were done last October, and the local farmers’ network committee chose three crops in four villages for further work. In two villages on the coast (Gwou’ulu and Malothawa), the project is working with farmers to manage Nisotra, a chrysomelid beetle attacking Abelmoschus, an important leafy greens. The beetle does so much damage that many people have given up growing the plant. In a third village (Takwa), watermelons are a major cash crop, but leaf blight (still to be identified) and Diaphania indica caterpillars (identified on PestNet) are a problem. Inland (at Gwaiau), the lethal virus disease of taro, known as alomae (literally, taro dies) is the focus.
Natural sprays against pests of Abelmoschus and taro
The farmers have attempted to control Nisotra and the planthopper, Tarophagus, which spreads alomae, using natural sprays. There are a number of products that can be obtained locally – tobacco, chillies, Fuu, (Barringtonia asiatica), Uka (Derris spp.), and Furii (made from a local, unidentified, tree). Commercial pesticides are not available, are unlikely to be used on everyday foods, and there is little or no experience in their use. For these reasons, the Project does do not recommend them.
Unfortunately, none of the natural sprays were effective, either in tests made by the farmers or during the recent visit. Insects were sprayed while on the plants, collected with treated leaves, and put into plastic boxes so see the effect. Most were still alive after 48 hours. Further tests are now planned to see if any of the sprays are effective repellents, but hopes are not high. Nisotra for example, falls or jumps to the ground when sprayed (even with water), but within a few minutes is back on the leaves. We will also test whether it is practical to hand pick Nisotra.
It would help if we could find the breeding sites. So far, larval stages have not been found on the roots of Abelmoschus, the most likely place.
Roguing to control alomae of taro
An alternative method of controlling alomae is being attempted: roguing – carefully pulling out diseased plants and burning them. This is the way the disease was controlled historically, but has gone out of fashion due to changing beliefs. The Project has been discussing the disease with farmers, sharing information on its cause and method of spread, and suggesting that roguing is a good method of control, especially if all growers do it. An alomae committee has now been formed, and the members will try to convince the community to work together to control the disease. Taro is an important cash crop at Gwaiau.
Watermelons: insects, pathogens and other difficulties
Watermelon can be a lucrative crop for growers in the Takwa area (there are four villages growing them). Individual plantings are relatively large, often an eighth of a hectare and more. However, a visit to one (Nanadi) showed the problems faced by growers: pests (Diaphania and a leaf blight) are present, rainfall is high, and growers do not know how to use pesticides properly, often confusing the two commonly used products, chlorothalonil and acephate, so control is poor. Successive crops are planted on the same land over a period of several years, which increases the pest problems. The last crop, planted in March and maturing in June, was mostly a failure.
Our first response is to provide growers with seed of varieties that have done well in other Pacific Island countries to see if there is resistance to the leaf blight. Then there will be training in safe and effective use of pesticides, and attempts to introduce Bt and copper products.
Feedback from PestNet members
Please let me know if you would like a copy of the tour report. And if you have experience with natural sprays, please share them with the Project.
And as I said last time, do keep your comments coming.
Rural email is going to make a big impact in isolated Pacific communities. In the Linking Farmers project we are beginning to see its potential to support NGOs and agricultural extension workers. We want to be in a position to offer help when email systems are established more widely in the region, as they will be. Only this month the Government of Samoa announced that it is to make Internet access more widely available to all citizens. The success of PFNet in Solomon Islands has been such that UNDP and other donors are looking to replicate the network in PNG and Vanuatu, and already in PNG churches have established viable email networks.
7 September 2004
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