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
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Thursday, April 28, 2005
Posted 9:25 PM by Luigi
Saving coconuts in Southeast Asia and Pacific islands
From the FAO website: Biological pest control enlists natural enemy to combat coconut beetle.
12 April 2005, Bangkok - A tiny parasitic wasp may help save the coconut industries of a number of countries in the Asia and Pacific region from a destructive pest that feeds on the developing leaves of the coconut palm, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today.
Severe attacks by the coconut hispine beetle (Brontispa longissima Gestro) can destroy palm leaves and significantly reduce coconut yields. If a palm is young or suffers from poor growing conditions, it may die.
The beetle has invaded coconut plantations in the Maldives, Nauru, Thailand, Viet Nam, the Lao's People's Democratic Republic and China, causing massive losses to local coconut industries. In response, FAO has launched biological control projects in all the affected countries aimed at achieving long-term control of the pest with the help of one of its natural enemies.
"Biological control has proven to be the most effective and we are currently mass-rearing a small wasp parasitoid, Asecodes hispinarum, which attacks the larvae of the beetle, to control the spread of the pest and bring it to non-economically damaging levels," said Wilco Liebregts, an FAO consultant and expert in biological pest control.
Within several months of its release in southern Viet Nam in August 2003, the parasite caused significant reductions in beetle densities and damage to coconut palms, and trees showed clear signs of recovery, returning to pre-infestation production levels.
Spread of the pest
The coconut beetle is widespread in areas of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and a number of Pacific island countries. However, this invasive pest is new to continental Southeast Asia where, in the absence of natural enemies, it is rapidly spreading and causing massive damage.
The beetle was first detected in Viet Nam, the Maldives and China within the last five years, and is believed to have been imported with ornamental palm trees.
"If left unchecked, the beetle's spread into Bangladesh, India, Myanmar and Sri Lanka will have a similar devastating impact on the smallholder and plantation coconut industry in those countries, putting at risk the livelihoods of a great number of people dependent on this crop," said Keith Chapman, FAO Industrial Crops Officer in Thailand.
Economic loss and threat to livelihood
Coconut palms provide many basic products ranging from fresh drink, food, oil, fiber, oleochemicals and household utensils to timber and building materials. They play an important role in the environment, health, food security and livelihoods of many people in the region.
In the Maldives alone, economic losses caused by the pest are significant. There, coconut is not only an important local food crop, but is perhaps even more important for the tourism industry. Management from one resort island estimated losses between June 2000 and February 2003 at US$ 237 000 already due to a decline in tourism because of unhealthy palm trees and shift in labour from productive activities to insecticide application. Losses in revenue from coconut sales and drinks are estimated at a further US$33 000 for the same period for the holiday islands.
A study commissioned by FAO showed that if left uncontrolled, the beetle infestation would cause in excess of US$1 billion in damage in Viet Nam alone, seriously threatening the survival of the coconut industry there. Assessments of the damage in the other affected countries indicate that the pest would have a similar impact there.
The control of the pest has therefore become of international concern and is of highest priority to the governments of the countries in the region. In China, the pest has been elevated to a status of second most important forestry pest, even though only a few provinces have a sufficiently warm climate to allow the coconut to grow.
Government authorities in the region responded quickly to the incursion and launched control programmes involving the application of insecticides to the crown and stem of infested trees. In the Maldives and China, large numbers of seedlings and even mature trees were also removed and destroyed. However, the pest continued to spread and chemical control proved not only expensive and ineffective but also a serious health risk to farmers, families and consumers - as coconut plantings are often situated near homes.
"The application of insecticides can only serve as a temporary control measure," said Tran Tan Viet, a biocontrol specialist at Nong Lam University in Viet Nam. "Biological control is the most effective method, given the cost and benefit ratio."
Most countries, however, lack expertise in biological control in general and of this pest in particular. To build capacity in these countries in biological control of pests and increase public awareness on non-chemical, environment-friendly control methods, FAO is helping them develop integrated pest management programmes that follow international standards set by FAO. This support has assisted the countries in identifying the coconut hispine beetle to species level, in collecting and importing natural enemies of the beetle from Samoa in the Pacific, in rearing them in captivity for evaluation, and in releasing them into the fields.
FAO is now assessing the effectiveness of these exotic natural enemies in controlling the beetle and in helping to develop integrated pest management strategies that suit each country's unique environment.
"The biological control programmes of the coconut hispine beetle are excellent examples of achieving sustainable, long-term control of a very damaging invasive alien pest that minimizes impacts on the environment and the countries' unique indigenous biodiversity," said Peter Kenmore, an FAO expert in pest management.
Contact: Maria Kruse Information Officer, FAO firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Posted 8:36 PM by Luigi
More on Fiji breadfruit industry
Fiji Times, Wednesday, 6 April 2005
THE increasing demand for breadfruit in overseas markets has forced the Agriculture Ministry and the Natures Way Cooperatives and similar stakeholders to look at ways to produce quality fruit.
Fiji Breadfruit Industry Development Project Coordinator Andrew McGregor said breadfruit has a large market potential with the Pacific Islanders living in New Zealand. Last year Fiji exported 10.5 tonnes of breadfruit, which was up to 35 percent from the 6.8 tonnes exported in 2003.
"This year the forecast for breadfruit exports is between 20-25 tonnes," said Mr McGregor. In its efforts to improve the quality of the fruit, the Research Division of the ministry has begun looking into ways of raising seedlings through different ways of raisings seedlings through different propagation techniques like marcotting, root cuttings and root suckers.
"Proper ways of fruit harvesting, sap management and packaging can maintain the quality of breadfruit and also improve its shelf life," said Post Harvest Handling Specialist Grantley Chaplin.
The two main breadfruit varieties that are being exported are Uto Dina and Bale Kana. He said the fruits kept on respiring even after harvesting and that led to the softening and collapsing of the cartons in which they are packed in.
A Horticultural Information and Training Specialist Alan Harre said the importers want the packaging of same size fruits. "Importers want fruits to be graded by sizes and varieties while packaging to improve presentation and sales," Mr Harre said.
Officers from the Agriculture Ministry are working closely with exporters in supervising the spraying of breadfruit trees to control pests. Agriculture Extension officers are also present during harvesting time to avoid any unsprayed breadfruits from being harvested.
Major exporters of breadfruits are National Exports, Mahen Exports, Ram's Valley Fresh, Maqere Exports and Green Valley Fresh. National Exports packs the commodity and exports it to the United States of America.
Posted 7:43 PM by Luigi
PGR Policy Training
Policy issues are recognized as being critical to sustainable conservation and use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA) in the Pacific. Increasing the awareness of such issues among decision-makers and other stakeholders features prominently in the Pacific PGR Action Plan, agreed in 2001 at the launch of the Pacific Agricultural Plant Genetic Resources Network (PAPGREN). Accordingly, such issues, and in particular the recently-concluded International Treaty on PGRFA, were discussed in the recent PAPGREN-sponsored SPC publication Policy Issues Related to PGR in the Pacific: A Guide for Researchers and Policymakers. They were also debated at length during the Meetings of Ministers and Heads of Agriculture and Forestry organized by SPC in October 2004. However, it was felt that further awareness-raising was necessary.
Dr Mary Taylor, Regional Germplasm Centre Adviser attended a training workshop on the use of the IPGRI/ISNAR Law and Policy Issues in PGR Conservation and Use training module in June 2004, with support from IPGRI, which is also providing technical support to PAPGREN and financial support via donor-funded projects. A week-long train-the-trainers workshop was thereafter organized by PAPGREN in late March 2005, with support from NZAID and ACIAR via projects that IPGRI has with SPC to support PGR networking in the Pacific. The objectives of the workshop were to provide PGR professionals and environmental law experts in the Pacific region with the knowledge, tools and resources they need to inform and train different stakeholders at the national level in PGR policy issues and concepts. More particularly, the workshop aimed to:
The dozen participants represented an unusual and stimulating mix of PGR practitioners, managers and environmental lawyers, and included staff of NGOs, government ministries of environment and agriculture and regional organizations from throughout the Pacific region. The programme was adapted from the training module and was flexible enough to allow changes during the course of the workshop itself to respond to specific suggestions by participants. Each day ended with participants listing the strengths and weaknesses of the day and completing a PAPA (participant action plan approach) form detailing possible actions to be taken on their return to the office, based on the day's activities. Each day began with volunteer participants summarizing the events of the previous day and the strengths and weaknesses of the programme. All exercises were done in three small groups (4-5 people) including one legal expert each.
A report on the course, including proposed follow-up activities and recommendations, is available on request.
To stay up to date with developments in law and policy related to PGRFA:
1. Contact SPC, SPREP as necessary
2. Consult – and contribute to – “PGR News from the Pacific” (blog and email news alerts)
3. Check out the websites of the major relevant international treaties
4. Email news alerts
Monday, April 04, 2005
Posted 4:37 PM by Luigi
Taro in Hawaii
To follow-up the recent news on the East Maui Taro Festival, just two examples among many (no endorsement implied!) of how taro is being promoted by the private sector in Hawaii.
Posted 2:01 PM by Luigi
Thousands hungry in the Reef Islands
HONIARA, Solomon Islands (SIBC, April 1) – As many as 7,000 people of the Reef Islands in the Solomon Islands Temotu province are reported to be facing a shortage of staple food. Patterson Natei of Otelo village says the food shortage started in December as a result of continuing dry weather affecting root crops and fruit trees that the people depend on for survival. He says agriculture officers in Lata have carried out a survey of the food shortage. Mr Natei says the problem is affecting school children and that attendance is getting lower each day. He calls on people on other islands in Temotu with enough food to assist those with limited food supplies.
Agrobiodiversity Weblog: For discussions of conservation and sustainable use of the genetic resources of crops, livestock and their wild relatives.