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, July 31, 2005
Posted 6:06 PM by Luigi
KGA food workshop creates economic opportunities in rural villages
Press release: Honiara, 29.7.05
Turning banana and taro into tasty snacks and local fruits into jams and syrups could help Solomon Islanders in isolated rural areas boost their incomes. This was the aim of a food processing workshop held by Kastom Gaden Association in Makira last week (18-25 July).
Around 30 of Kastom Gaden’s Planting Material Network (PMN) members, community groups and interested individuals from remote regions of Makira, Malaita and Guadalcanal gathered in Kirakira for the AusAID funded programme.
Many of the participants receive little or no regular income because they live so far from provincial capitals and good transport links. The workshop showed how home grown foods can be made into attractive, added value products that can help boost cash flows. The course is part of a KGA programme for sustainable livelihoods in rural areas.
Food scientist Dr Richard Beyer from Fiji, who is running a series of food processing workshops with Kastom Gaden, showed attendees how to make attractive products that will not go bad quickly during transport and storage. These included jams, marmalades, cordials, syrup and chutney made from local fruits, as well as banana and taro chips and fried peanuts.
The course also covered how to develop systems for buying and borrowing processing equipment and packaging and how to price and market products.
Claudine Watoto, KGA project manager said: “This workshop proves there is a big opportunity for rural people to sell their products to the wider market. Our vision is to reduce the reliance on imported goods with community made added value products.”
KGA is now helping the workshop participants to set up village-based micro-businesses. It is also creating links with shipping agents, retail outlets and packaging companies in Honiara. KGA would like to hear from retailers that are interested in these products or anyone who can contribute empty glass jars. If you can help please call KGA on 39551.
For more press information contact Louise Hunt on 39551 or
Posted 1:43 PM by Luigi
Rice blast in Fiji
From the Fiji Times, 30 July 2005.
THE spin doctors at the Ministry of Agriculture have been working overtime. At stake is the local rice industry — and the country's agricultural sector. In dispute is whether or not the Indonesian rice variety was tested for disease before it was distributed for planting.
In his statement this week, the Chief Executive Officer for Agriculture Luke Ratuvuki makes the following points:
When the crop was harvested, production was so high that other rice farmers were tempted and encouraged to plant the new variety to boost local production. Fiji has to import rice to meet local demand. This year, seven farmers joined the three to grow what they thought would bring in better financial returns. Instead, they have lost more than just a harvest.
They have unwittingly spread a fungus that threatens to bring down the very industry they depend upon for a living. Where a field of paddy once grew, today it is nothing but ashes — and death.
Plant Protection principal officer Moti Autar has refused to comment on the issue. But sources say the Quarantine Department did by-pass the Plant Protection unit on this issue.
Instead of passing the new variety grains to the Koronivia Research Station to test for pests and disease, the seeds were released to the farmers for planting.
The normal procedure for any seed entering the country is that it is referred to Plant Protection at Koronivia. At Koronivia, a sample of the seeds is germinated at the post-entry quarantine (PEQ) facility. These seedlings are then assessed for virus, fungus or any kind of disease. Depending on the results, Plant Protection can release the seeds for planting but it is carefully monitored by researchers.
If they are satisfied after the first harvest, the seeds are then widely distributed for planting.
In this case, Plant Protection was left out of the picture altogether. On the issue of the rice blast fungus being a local disease, experts say the seeds would have carried the fungus. Under the right conditions, the fungus, which would have been lying dormant in the seeds, would have surfaced as it did in this case.
Rewa Rice Limited chairman Hari Pal Singh believes the Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for the damage to rice farms in Dreketi.
"The Agriculture Ministry is responsible for the introduction of new plants and animals into the country," he said. When the fungus was detected, he said, some 30 tonnes of rice had to be destroyed. Quarantine officers are also trying to destroy the rice husk that are sold to floriculturists.
Mr Singh warned that the industry was yet to see the long-term effects of the fungus. "This fungal disease can persist in the soil for a long time and can be easily carried by agents like air, water, farm animals, human and farm implements," he said. "So the long term effect of this disease is yet to be realised."
Experts say the fungus can affect other agricultural produces like sugar cane and vegetables. Since Fiji is dependent on agriculture, any disease or fungal threat to the sector will impact the economy.
For Mr Singh, the matter of compensation is an issue that should not have to be debated. "Of course, yes. Rewa Rice strongly feels that farmers who suffered from this should be compensated until such time their farms are rehabilitated and this may take as long as three years.
"For farmers in these areas, rice is the only crop. Their livelihood depends on rice alone. "Rewa Rice Ltd should also be compensated for the rice husk, which is worth about $50,000 and which shall be destroyed."
"We all, including the farmers, were very excited with the Indonesian technology and all the farmers were willing to plant this improved variety in the off-season."
His advice to farmers is simple: Don't forget the local variety.
Posted 1:39 PM by Luigi
New crops for atolls
From the new Spore.
The National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) is distributing lowland varieties of food crops to the atolls of Papua New Guinea to broaden their narrow crop base. The crops on offer include: African yam (D. rotundata), drought-tolerant sweet potato and cassava varieties, blight-resistant taro varieties, open-pollinated corn varieties, varieties of peanuts and bele, popular varieties of banana, as well as Elephant’s Ear (Alocasia spp.) and giant swamp taro (Cyrtosperma chamissonis). NARI is also establishing a fruit and nut orchard in the Duke of York Islands. The orchard will consist of the best varieties of fruit and nut trees, including rambutan, durian, mango, mangosteen, citrus, langset, okari and nutmeg.
Thursday, July 28, 2005
Posted 7:24 PM by Luigi
First draft of ITPGRFA's MTA negotiated
Meeting of the Contact Group for the Drafting of the Standard Material Transfer Agreement for the Multilateral System under the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Hammamet, Tunisia. 18-22 July.
The Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA) is the key tool of the Multilateral System (MS) for exchange of germplasm under the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). There is general agreement that the SMTA must be as clear and easy to understand and use as possible, but with the necessary safeguards against non-compliance.
The Secretariat of the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources, acting as Interim Secretariat to the ITPGRFA, established an Expert Group which put together a draft SMTA setting out various options. This meeting in Tunisia brought together representatives of all FAO Regions (Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, Middle East and SW Pacific) to negotiate (by consensus) a final SMTA. FAO’s SW Pacific region includes Australia, New Zealand and the PICTs. The participation of developing countries was funded by the US Government.
The result of the meeting was a “First Draft SMTA prepared by the Contact Group.” Much text remains in square brackets (i.e. not agreed by all), but the basic structure has been agreed:
Appendix 1. List of material provided under the SMTA and associated data. (i.e. the subject matter of the SMTA).
Appendix 2. Payment of benefit sharing. Essentially banking instructions.
These will be the main items on the agenda of a proposed further meeting of the Contact Group, probably in late 2005 or early 2006.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Posted 11:23 PM by Luigi
GOING NUTS OVER NANGAI
From Island Business.
It is of little exaggeration that leading Port Vila spice exporter, Charles Long Wah, is going nuts over nangai nuts. Indeed, the businessman believes the nuts, otherwise known as canarium indicum, is the most lucrative crop in Vanuatu.
As it is, Wah says suppliers like him can't even meet local demand and supplies have to be boosted dramatically if they have to satisfy overseas markets as well.“At the moment, we supply hotels, restaurants, shops and we cannot satisfy them all. The local market outstrips what we can supply,” says Wah.
Spending over a quarter of his life on studying the nuts, figures fall off Wah's mouth easily. Fully exploited, the man believes the nuts can employ up to 100,000 people, that's just about half of Vanuatu's population! Locals currently supply 160 tonnes of nangai nuts each year, which is a mere five percent of all nangai nuts available in the country. Since nangai trees grow wild in Vanuatu (as well as in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea) and due to poor harvesting techniques, Wah says half-a-million tonnes go to waste every year. With prices hovering at around A$5000 a tonne, that's a whooping AUS$2.5 billion litter!
“The main problem we've got at the moment is with the price of around A$5000 a tonne, the farmers harvest, they crack the nuts, they load them in the plane, and when they get the money, they don't want to work again because it's one of the highest incomes they ever had. It's very difficult.”Things are about to change though. With the help of AusAID, Wah has been contracted to hold training on harvesting and processing of the nuts in Vanuatu, and very soon the Solomon Islands and most probably Papua New Guinea. By his estimate, more nangai trees grow wild in the other two Melanesian countries: some two million in the Solomons and 10 million in PNG, compared to half a million only in Vanuatu. AusAID too is assisting in the processing of the nuts and this will enable Wah to move from a home-based processor to a factory-based one.
“AusAID experts were here (recently) to finalise all the equipment, the packaging and marketing. “Australia is going to buy all our produce in the next few months. “At the moment everything is home-made, but we are going to a factory soon because AusAID is going to fund every equipment and train people in the island on how to do it.”Like everything else Wah does, developing the nangai nuts market in Vanuatu has been largely a one-man effort, with hardly any contribution from the Vanuatu Government. This is nothing new for Wah, whose self-driven work on kava and nangai nuts won him a gold exporters award in Europe in 2004. He still remembers his days as a radio announcer in the early 1970s with then Radio Vanuatu, where he used to promote kava cultivation.
“On many occasions during news time, I would tell listeners to go and plant kava because we were not allowed to drink in pubs in those days, only whites were allowed to. “Go and plant your traditional drink, I would tell them, and it picked up because at that time majority of the kava was destroyed by the missionaries. When missionaries arrived here, they said kava was a devil's drink.“So kava was destroyed and many islands had no more kava plants. Only a few islands had them, islands like Pentecost, Tanna, and a few areas on Santo. “I was promoting every woman to plant 500 bush kava, every man, a thousand and the next year, I kept telling them, keep on planting. And since the last 35 years, we have become the largest exporter of kava in the Pacific.”
Wah is now telling ni-Vanuatu to plant 365 nangai trees a year, a tree a day.
“If you have 365 trees, it can contribute $50 per tree, and that's nearly $20,000 a year. “This is not value added. If it's value added, it will be much more. Besides, nangai trees growing in Melanesia are very deep-rooted and if you have a cyclone this year, it destroys the nuts and we won't have any nuts. But next year it will provide you with two harvests.”
Years of experimenting led the Port Vila businessman to extend the shelf life of the nuts sold in bottles to two years. He's still working on plastic packaging whose shelf life span is currently limited to six months.
He agrees that value-added is the way to go. To illustrate this, Wah says that value-adding which at the moment primarily consists of roasting the nuts and coating them with sugar or honey, or even chocolate, boosts prices from $5000 a tonne to more than $17,000 per tonne!Because of this, Wah believes the central government ought to promote and help develop the local nangai nuts market. According to him, promoting low value crops like taro and manioc (cassava) will only exacerbate poverty in rural Vanuatu.
“A typical example is if you take North Efate where a man plants tapioca (manioc), it will take him six months, and when it's ready, he hires a Hilux (pick-up) to come and take the manioc to the factory. “The driver says the road is no good, and he can only take a tonne although the Hilux can take one tonne. He will load a tonne, or 500 kilos to the factory. “It costs him 8000 Vatu to go down to the factory with his load, and cost him 2000 Vatu to go back to the village. And he gets 20 cents per kilo. “He hasn't made a single profit on it. Automatically he creates poverty. “The problem is we are so isolated in the Pacific, we should value add the products. “Many developments in Vanuatu at this moment are not profitable. It just creates poverty and accelerates urban drift.”
Meanwhile. Vanuatu took delivery of its new agricultural college built in Luganville on Santo Island by the Chinese Government. The school block and adjoining accommodation complex were handed over to local government officials last March. The complex cost the Chinese US$3 million.
The Ministry of Agriculture hopes the college will be able to host students from other Pacific islands too.
Higher world prices are keeping the local industry buoyant. The current prices are still higher than the 2003 price at US$344.1 per ton, says the Reserve Bank of Vanuatu in its quarterly economic review of December 2004. World market prices coupled with imports from Kiribati and the Solomon Islands took copra production last year to around 30,000 tons, although the Coconut Oil Product Limited mill in Santo can take up to 50,000 tons.
Minister for Agriculture Barak Sope is now considering banning the export of live cattle to Indonesia due to its impact on beef export. The Santo abattoir says it's finding it difficult to meet its export targets due to the mass export of live animals by another Santo-based company. The Reserve Bank says over 3000 heads were exported in 2004.
By the last quarter of 2004, the Reserve Bank noted a 2280 tons increase in kava exports than the previous quarter, mainly bound for Fiji and New Caledonia. The country's leading exporter Charles Long Wah estimates Vanuatu consumes 6000 tons of green kava a year, half of that in Port Vila alone.
Posted 7:34 PM by Luigi
Bananas and Plantains of French Polynesia
This is not an official publication (just 25 copies, all of which all have gone!), but below is the abstract in both English and French.
Bananas and Plantains of French Polynesia/Bananes et Plantains de Polynesie Francaise
by/par Angela Kay Kepler and Francis G. Rust
with/avec Robert C. Suggs guide and interpreter/guide et interprete
Report to the Delegation a la Recherche (de la Polynesie FRancaise), Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia. Parts I-V, 101 pp, 74 plates.
Dr. Angela Kay Kepler
PO Box 1298
The present study, in five parts, is the result of 8 months investigation into the historical and present status of French Polynesian, non-fe'i bananas. Field work was undertaken for three weeks in Tahiti and the Marquesas Islands (Nuku Hiva, Hiva 'Oa), September 12 – October 3, 2004. Our quest was to locate possible ancestors of Hawai'i’s traditional bananas. Prior to Western contact, French Polynesia has been archaeologically proven to be the original source of the Hawaiians, their bananas, and all other food plants: the first known immigrants to the Hawaiian Islands were from the Marquesas ~100 A.D. Later, voyaging canoes left Tahiti ~1250 A.D., transporting immigrants and additional food plants.
A 40-page table of ~150 annotated banana variety names gleaned from published and unpublished records, is included, along with 185 captioned color photographs of introduced and traditional banana varieties, plus their native Hawaiian counterparts where appropriate.
Cette étude, en cinq parties, est le résultat de 8 mois d’investigation sur le statut historique (ancien) et actuel des bananes de Polynésie française non-fe’i (c’est-à-dire excluant les fe’i). Le travail de terrain s’est déroulé pendant 3 semaines à Tahiti et dans les îles Marquises (Nuku Hiva, Hiva Oa) du 12 septembre au 3 octobre 2004. Notre objectif était de localiser des ancêtres possibles des bananes traditionnelles des îles Hawai’i’s. Avant le contact occidental, la Polynésie française a été archéologiquement reconnue comme étant le lieu d’origine des Hawaiiens, de leurs bananes et des autres plantes alimentaires : les premiers immigrants arrivant aux îles Hawaii provenaient des Marquises vers 100 A.D. Plus tard, des pirogues quittèrent Tahiti vers 1250 A.D. transportant d’autres immigrants et des plantes alimentaires additionnelles.
Le protocole a notamment consisté à questionner plus de 100 habitants des îles et étrangers ayant une bonne connaissance des bananes dans chaque île, en montrant aux informateurs plus de 100 photos des variétés de bananes de Hawaii et de Polynésie française, de discuter des variétés existantes ou disparues, les caractères d’identification, et les utilisations culturelles. Nous avons également visité –en véhicule tout-terrain et à pied- les localités connues actuellement et dans le passé de peuplements de bananiers, ainsi que parcouru les routes entre ces localités . Notre visite a fait l’objet d’une émission radio de 90 minutes par Radio Taiohae à Nuku Hiva et d’articles dans les journaux locaux.
Les principaux résultats ont été :
Nous avons inclus un tableau de 40 pages contenant environ 140 noms de variétés de bananes glanées dans les données publiés ou non publiés, ainsi que 185 photographies en couleur des variétés de bananes introduites et traditionnelles, plus leurs homologues Hawaiiens quand ils existent.
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Posted 4:26 PM by Luigi
Breadfruit and health
From Dr Lois Englberger of the Island Food Community of Pohnpei.
I would like to share with you electronically the text of our newspaper article in the Health Corner of the present Kaselehlie Press newspaper issue. Thank you to the Mand Community ladies for their recipes and also to the Kaselehlie Press for their support!
Eat More Breadfruit for Health Benefits!
Breadfruit is one of Micronesia’s nutrition treasures, rich in energy, which the body needs for warmth, work and play. Breadfruit is also rich in fiber, the part of plants that the body cannot digest. Research has shown that fiber can help diabetes control as it reduces the absorption of glucose (sugar) from the food that is eaten. A study reported in April 2005 at the American Heart Association’s 6th Annual Conference in Washington D. C. showed that subjects who increased their fiber intake were able to decrease their levels of total cholesterol, LDL ("bad") cholesterol, and triglycerides, all substances which increase heart risk, whereas the levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol increased (which is a health benefit). Fiber also helps make our intestines and bowels work properly.
It is currently recommended that adults consume 20-35 grams of dietary fiber per day. Two cups of boiled breadfruit at lunch and dinner would provide 25 grams. On the other hand, white rice is very low in fiber content. Two cups of rice at lunch and dinner would provide only 6.8 grams!! If eaten in large quantities, breadfruit can also provide a large proportion of the recommended requirements for vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, phosphorus and iron.
Two Pingelapese breadfruit recipes, Seipwok in Mei and Kemelis, were recently presented in Mand, as a part of the Documentation of the Traditional Food System of Pohnpei project, coordinated by the Island Food Community of Pohnpei. Ihser George presented her dish of Seipwok in Mei on June 9, and Mary Edward brought Kemelis (a delicious rare treat!!) on June
20. So let’s try their recipes, eat breadfruit, and enjoy health benefits!
Seipwok in Mei
2 coconuts, grated
Kemelis in Mei
3-5 breadfruit (smooth-skinned breadfruit are best)
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Posted 2:23 PM by Luigi
Community-based conservation in PNG
On July 25 nearly 2,000 of the world's leading environmental scientists of various disciplines met in Brasilia to present papers at the 19th Annual Meeting of the Society for Conservation Biology. The conference featured more than 750 oral presentations and 965 scientific abstracts. Below is the abstract from a paper discussing the role of indigenous communities in conservation in PNG. The description is an excerpt from the official "Book of Abstracts" from the meeting. More abstracts.
THE APPLICATION OF ETHNOECOLOGICAL RESEARCH FOR IMPROVED CONSERVATION: A CASE STUDY FROM THE TRANSFLY REGION OF NEW GUINEA.
TOMASEK, ADAM J. World Wildlife Fund; 1250 24th St., NW, Washington, DC 20037, USA.
The Transfly ecoregion traverses the southern savannas and wetlands of Papua New Guinea and Papua, Indonesia. Located in the heart of the TransFly is Papua New Guinea’s largest protected area, the Tonda Wildlife Management Area. Land conversion for agriculture, indiscriminate logging, cross border trade and water extraction are the major threats to biodiversity in Tonda. To date, spatial and thematic priorities for biodiversity conservation have been defined mostly through expert-driven processes and academic research. They often do not incorporate indigenous or traditional knowledge of biota, ecology and natural systems. A systematic rapid assessment of local knowledge and management issues in three villages. The underlying values and perceptions of landscapes and species for local communities were identified and combined with expert-defined, scientifically-based priorities for conservation in the TransFly as decision-making factors for reserve selection and resource management policies. Totemic species and their relationship to local people’s contemporary life were defined. New records for certain bird and reptile species were also documented. This investigation has resulted in the creation of new customary conservation zones. The project has revealed that ecological and customary knowledge had become highly fragmentary. Local people are having increasing difficulty finding a balance between conservation and development as the pressure of modern life increases. This study suggests that conservation planning areas under customary tenure regimes are likely to be more successful if they incorporate local knowledge and values of landscapes.
Posted 2:02 PM by Luigi
Food shortage in Reef Islands
The Reef Islands in Solomon islands remote eastern Temotu Province, are still suffering from severe food shortages, although the situation has improved slightly since relief supplies were brought in several weeks ago.
The government and non-government organisations are now calling for a more permanent solution to this ongoing problem. NGO groups are strongly advocating a return to traditional diets, and a collective approach.
Speakers: Inia Barry from the Kastom Garden Association in Solomon Islands; Rex Tara, OXFAM Australia based in Honiara
Monday, July 25, 2005
Posted 7:26 PM by Luigi
Collecting Wild Rice, Wild Vigna and Sago in East Sepik and Madang Provinces, PNG
by Rosa Kambuou, NARI
A Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on collaborative Research Program on Conservation of Plant Genetic Resources (PGR) between the Papua New Guinea (PNG) National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) and the National Institute of Agro-biological Sciences (NIAS) of Japan was signed in September/October of 2003. This is the second collecting trip in PNG. The first trip was undertaken last June looking only at wild Vigna both in PNG and in Japan. A PGR cadet scientist from NARI went to Japan last October for the collecting of wild Vigna in Japan and to study how the genes flow from the cultivated Vigna into the wild population. The MOA also included the collecting of sago germplasm for NARI.
Objectives of the collecting trip
There is very little knowledge or information on the wild rice and wild Vigna found in PNG. There is incomplete information on the herbarium specimens held in Europe and also in the Lae herbarium. According to the Japanese experts on these crops there is very little genomic information on these wild species. The purpose of these collecting trips was to identify the wild population of these crops and collect samples for the genomic studies. Information from the genomic studies would be able to reveal how related these wild progenitors are to the cultivated crops and would also broaden the scientific knowledge of these crops and their wild relatives.
The overall objectives of the collaboration between PNG NARI and NIAS of Japan is spelt out in the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) .
Members of the collecting team
The Collecting Team comprised of Dr Duncan Vaughan, Dr Akito Kaga, Mrs Janet Paofa and Mrs Rosa Kambuou. Drs Vaughan and Kaga are from the National Institute of Agro-biological Sciences (NIAS) of Japan and Mrs Paofa and Kambuou are from the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) of Papua New Guinea, based at NARI Dry-lowlands Programme Laloki.
Dr Vaughan is an expert in rice genomics and Dr Kaga is in the genomics of Vigna, with special interest in wild Vigna. Mrs Paofa is a Research Associate with the NARI Genetic Resources Programme and a National Curator of four National Germplasm Collections while Mrs Kambuou is the Scientist in-charge of NARI’s Genetic Resources Programme.
Location of collection
The visiting scientists from NIAS arrived in PNG on 13th June 2005. NARI researchers joined them on 14th June then the collecting team flew to Lae than Madang. While in Lae the team paid a courtesy call on the Director-General of NARI and visited the Forest Research Institute (FRI) to look at the herberium specimens.
In Madang the team paid a courtesy call on the Madang Provincial Agriculture Advisor (PAA) Mr Godfrey Savi (acting PAA) and made arrangements for the collecting trip in Madang Province. The team also visited the World Vision (NGO group), had discussions with the Program Manager Mr Fred J Hombuanje for transport arrangements for the collecting in Madang.
The following day the team flew to Wewak called upon the Provincial Agriculture Advisor of East Sepik Province (ESP), Mr Benjamin Sani and made arrangements for Agriculture personnel to accompany the team into the Sepik River. The team was assisted by a private businessman Mr Ismael Singut who provided the vehicle, the boat and the local guides.
In ESP the collecting team collected wild Vigna specimen along the Wewak-Pagwi highway, at Pagwi Sub-District Station and at Chambri lakes. The team also collected wild rice specimen at Sotmeri Barat, at Aibom village in Chambri lakes, at Korogu and Savanaut villages along the Sepik River and along the mouth of the Black Water River near Sangriman village. The sago accessions were collected from Aibom village in Chambri lakes, at Yamanumbu village and at the Pagwi Sub-District Station.
In Madang Province the team traveled to Walium Sub-District Station collected wild Vigna specimen and cassava accessions along the Madang-Lae highway. The team traveled to the lower Ramu River to a village called Nemnem through Bogia along the North Coast Road where specimens of wild Vigna were collected. At Nemnem village the team also collected wild rice and sago accessions. While in Madang the team also visited the Bogadjim-Asui areas and collected wild rice, cassava, yam and sago.
A total of 16 accessions of sago, 6 cassava, one yam, 21 specimens of wild Vigna and 9 specimens of wild rice were collected during the collecting trip to Madang and East Sepik Provinces. The wild Vigna and the wild rice are collected for the genomic study to be undertaken by the NIAS scientists in Japan. The sago, cassava and the yam accessions collected are for research to be undertaken by the scientists of PNG NARI. Sago research will be carried out at NARI Wet-lowlands Programme, Bubia in Lae while the cassava and yam research will be conducted at NARI Dry-lowlands Programme at Laloki.
What will happen to the materials collected?
For the wild rice and wild Vigna, the scientists from NIAS will undertake the studies on the genomics of these plants. The scientists from NIAS believed that wild rice Oryza schlechleri is a tetraploid and they want to find out more about the genomics of this particular speci and how it is related to the cultivated rice which is the diploid. It is very difficult to get both O. rufipogon and O. schlechleri to flower. Due to unavailability of seeds, the NIAS scientists took plant parts of these wild rice to Japan for the genomic studies. The ‘duplicate’ collection of all the three Oryza species are deposited at NARI Laloki, currently being maintained in the green house. Once established the species will than be transferred to NARI Bubia for maintenance where the Rice Research Programme is being carried out.
For wild Vigna, both seeds and plants were collected. The ‘duplicate’ seed collection is deposited at NARI Laloki, which will be germinated and later planted out in the field. The plant specimens (leaves & vines) are taken to Japan for the genomic study.
The collected sago germplasm was sent to NARI Bubia to establish the National Sago Germplasm Collection as a source of genetic materials for sago research by NARI.
The collected cassava and yam accessions are currently grown in green house and will be later added to the existing National Germplasm Collections of these crops held at NARI Laloki. The focus of the National Cassava Collection is not only to ensure the safety of the genetic diversity of PNG cassava, but also to identify high yielding cassava cultivars that can be released to farmers for production when the proposed Ethanol Industry becomes a reality.
The entire collecting trip was very successful. After the genomic studies are conducted on the specimens collected, the scientific knowledge on the wild progenitors of Vigna and rice in PNG would be broadened and we would also know with confidence whether these wild relatives of rice and vigna in PNG are of any use for further investigation in Crop Improvement Programmes.
The collecting team had good discussions with the Heads of Agriculture in both the Madang and East Sepik Provinces. It was good to personally meet the people who are actually responsible for agriculture development in these Provinces.
The trip would not have been successful without the much-needed assistance provided by the World Vision and interested private Businessman Mr Ismael Singut. Both the World Vision and Mr Singut provided the vehicles, the boats and the local guides who assisted the team throughout the entire trip.
The collecting team is indebted to the following Organisations and people who made this trip highly successful.
First, many thanks goes to the Provincial Departments of Primary Industry and the Agriculture Advisors who gave the team the green light to visit their provinces and the arrangements for their officers to accompany the team on the trips.
The team acknowledges the Programme Manager of World Vision Madang and his friendly staff for their assistance and the use of their vehicle. Your kind assistance is gratefully acknowledged.
In ESP, the team is indebted to Mr Ismael Singut and his family for the kind assistance given to them as well as the successful arrangements made for the use of the vehicle and the boat in and out of the collecting sites. To Mr Singut and family the team gratefully acknowledged your kind assistance.
The team also acknowledges the Government of PNG through the Department of Environment & Conservation (DEC) for giving the approval for undertaking the collecting trip.
Finally the team gratefully acknowledges the donar agencies for providing the funds for the collecting trip and the Heads of NIAS and NARI for the opportunity given to the team to collect the germplasm.
Posted 5:50 PM by Luigi
Aussie venture plans Temotu logging
See a map of Temotu here: http://www.peoplefirst.net.sb/library/Play_Map.asp?IDLib=927
Posted 4:52 PM by Luigi
Has anyone in the Pacific seen this variegated banana?
The following is a call for information from Angela Kay Kepler & Frank Rust, who are writing a book on Hawaii's rare traditional bananas, with comparisons to Pacific varieties (either native or aboriginally introduced).
In Hawaii, where we live, the beautiful variegated banana illustrated below are considered "truly Hawaiian", but we would like to know with more certainty whether they evolved here or were brought by travelling Polynesians from the Central or Western Pacific. (We have found an historical reference to a banana variety having "light green leaves striped with white", occurring on "islands south of Tahiti").
Has anybody, anywhere in the Pacific - except Hawaii - seen this banana variety? It has striking variegated leaves (variably so, with up to 7 colors of cream, light & medium & dark greens), fruits, and even young fruits/female flower ovaries when they first appear.
We know that it was introduced about 30 years ago from Hawaii to the mainland US, where it rarely fruits, and are not interested in photos from California, Florida, etc. We are trying to locate its ancestral form somewhere in Oceania.
We would very much appreciate any comments. Please write to us at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org . If you can include photos, that would be even better. Even a sentence to the effect that you remember seeing one on a particular island or a particular country would help. Of course, specific geographical information would be perfect, or people who we could contact for more information.
With grateful thanks!
Angela Kay Kepler & Frank Rust
Dr. Angela Kay Kepler
PO Box 1298
Posted 4:24 PM by Luigi
Protecting kava from kava dieback disease
Dr Richard Davis, the SPC virologist will be interviewed for the "In the Loop" programme of Radio Australia. Below is the information he provided. Richard will be going on air at 12.40 Fiji time on Tuesday July 26.
Kava is a crop of enormous cultural and economic significance in the Pacific Islands. There is a huge potential export market for kava, which may immediately take off again, following the recent lifting of a ban on kava sales in Europe.
Kava dieback disease is a devastating problem. Affected plants develop a black soft rot, and ‘melt down’ rapidly. It spreads quickly and can destroy entire plantings.
It was first reported in Fiji in 1932. It then became the principal kava production constraint in the Pacific, especially in Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, and Vanuatu. In Fiji islands today, annual losses to kava dieback are estimated to average 40%.
In Fiji Islands, kava dieback reached serious national epidemic proportions in the late 1990s. This is because production intensity driven by high export prices, became very high. The threat today is that this story will be repeated if poorly planned rapid expansion of kava production occurs again.
The cause of kava dieback disease
The cause of kava dieback remained a deep mystery over decades of investigation until the early 1990s when an Australian (ACIAR) funded research project brought together workers from Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu and Samoa. At last, progress was made: a plant infecting virus called Cucumber mosaic virus (CMV) was implicated. However, we know today that it is not such a simple story. Latest thinking is that dieback results from a complex of interactions of kava with environmental and other factors with CMV at its centre. Exactly what is involved probably varies in different places and at different times. However, one thing is crystal clear: take CMV out of the picture and you do not have dieback any more.
Tackling the problem
Controlling CMV is not easy. There is no ‘silver bullet’ answer for kava farmers. No suitable disease resistant varieties of kava have yet been found. There are no chemical sprays available which kill the virus in infected plants. Spraying to kill the insects which spread the disease from plant to plant does not give effective control either. All this is made worse by the fact that CMV is very common and can infect an extremely broad range of other plants.
Since the mid 1990s, no further research was undertaken on kava dieback until late 2002 when the Fijian Ministry of Agriculture, Sugar and Land Resettlement (MASLR) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) started work together. Funding was provided by the European Union’s Plant Protection in the Pacific (PPP) project, managed by SPC. As a first step, a major biotechnology upgrade at the Ministry’s Koronivia Research Station and at the University of the South Pacific was made.
Biotechnology, including the DNA analyses used in forensic police work, has now unlocked the door to understanding kava dieback. New breakthroughs have been made that provide the foundation for an integrated dieback disease management package. It will be based on a combination of simple actions growers can take that reduce the sources of the virus and suppress plant to plant spread - no pesticides involved, and all in an agroforestry context.
This package takes advantage of two principal weaknesses of CMV:
Details are now being finalised, but the package is basically:
Growers must only use uninfected planting material. In the short term, this can be achieved to some extent by very carefully advised selection from what is currently available in the field. In the longer term, virus tested kava planting material should be made available, hopefully by commercial tissue culturing.
If a kid has flu virus, the best thing to do is keep him or her out of the classroom, to prevent spread to the other kids. As plant diseases are like human ones, growers were first advised to destroy all diseased plants, before they infect their neighbours. This was never widely adopted because each plant is of high value and growers know that some new growth follows stem rot.
Kava is best intercropped in early stages of growth and planting non-hosts between kava plants will reduce within plot spread of CMV. Studies to determine which key kava intercrops and weeds are alternative hosts for the dieback causing strain(s) of CMV are progressing well and definitive advice for growers is imminent.
Dieback is much less of a problem when grown in the traditional way. That is in small and isolated plantings grown amongst natural vegetation and below a tree canopy. This is because many of these plants are not hosts to the disease. Because of this, they act as a buffer zone, protecting the kava from incoming insects carrying CMV. The more separated the plantings are from each other, the better this works.
Kava also seems to be less likely to develop dieback when CMV is around when it is growing vigorously. For this reason, growers should only plant in the right kinds of soils: well drained, fertile and high in organic matter.
Posted 4:14 PM by Luigi
Biotech brouhaha in Hawaii
Some native Hawaiian leaders harbor concerns about developing the state's life science industries
Article URL: http://starbulletin.com/2005/07/24/business/story1.html © 1996-2005
The Honolulu Star-Bulletin: www.starbulletin.com
By Stewart Yerton email@example.com
WHEN the Hawaii Life Sciences Council unveiled its "innovation road map" last month, the event attracted some of Hawaii's leading lights to discuss development of the state's biomedical industries.
Gov. Linda Lingle led a roster of speakers that included Calvin Say, the speaker of the state House of Representatives, and Jennifer Sabas, U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye's chief of staff. Mike Fisch, publisher of the Honolulu Advertiser, was the event's emcee.
Also taking the podium were people who say they've often been ignored when the business establishment made its plans: representatives of the native Hawaiian community.
Peter Apo, director of the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association, who was one of the speakers, said the Hawaii Life Sciences Council is trying to avoid the missteps made by other industries, which often failed to consult native Hawaiians before forging ahead.
"All the others occurred without consent of the community," Apo said. "Maybe this time we can get it right."
But getting it right might be easier said than done.
Although the forum included testimonials from several native Hawaiian representatives -- including Merwina Cash-Kaeo, president and chief executive of the nonprofit group Alu Like; William Souza, Kaho po'o Nui and protocol officer of the Royal Order of Kamehameha; and Melissa Ha'a Moniz and Gerry Lam of the recently formed Ka Pukui Laau, or Hawaii Bioethics Council -- others, who were not asked to speak, say they have significant concerns, particularly about biotechnology and the commercialization and genetic alteration of Hawaiian plants.
Mililani Trask, a Hawaiian activist who has studied the issues, said it would be an overstatement to say that Hawaiian groups universally have embraced the Hawaii Life Sciences Council and the industries it represents.
"I really think that's a mischaracterization of where we are as the Hawaiian community," she said.
"It's not that we're against biotechnology," said Malia Nobrega, president of the Waikiki Hawaiian Civic Club. "But it needs to be appropriate."
Jobs and disease
These comments illustrate a tension between some native Hawaiian leaders and an industry that has been targeted by civic leaders and policy-makers as a field ripe for development.
Life sciences include the medical and health-care fields, as well as those involving research and development of pharmaceuticals, medical devices and genetically modified plants.
Growth opportunities extend far beyond traditional health care, which alone provides a huge job base that is only expected to grow as the population ages. Research projects, which are often financed with federal money, create well-paying jobs for researchers. And fruits of the research can spawn startup companies seeking to commercialize the intellectual property -- a process that can take years, employing more scientists and other professionals along the way.
Many successful biotech startups eventually go public, creating wealth for local investors and lasting jobs for local employees.
The life science industries also have another attribute appealing to supporters: at their heart, the industries seek to improve health and quality of life.
"This is about curing cancer and diabetes and cutting the costs of health care," said Lisa Gibson, president of the Hawaii Life Sciences Council, a private nonprofit economic development organization.
The overarching question, Gibson said, is "What do we need to do? What do we need to do to grow this sector?"
The movement already has considerable momentum.
In what developers hope will be a magnet for the creation of a biotech hub in Kakaako, the University of Hawaii has opened its John A. Burns School of Medicine in Kakaako and is developing a cancer research center there. Kamehameha Schools, a major landowner in Kakaako, has hired a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm, New Economy Strategies, to create a plan for further developing the area into a biotech hub.
Hawaii already has produced a crop of biotech startups notable for a place its size. Among the most mature of these is Hawaii Biotech, which is close to conducting clinical trials on its anti-inflammatory drugs and vaccines for West Nile virus and dengue fever. Hawaii Biotech employs 75 workers with average annual salaries of $80,000, said David Watumull, the company's president.
Despite the promise for that kind of economic development, some life sciences projects have faced significant opposition, particularly projects involving Hawaiian plants.
For example, concerns about University of Hawaii research into taro, considered a sacred plant by native Hawaiians, have led UH's College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources to issue a statement saying it is not conducting genetic-engineering research on Hawaiian taro and will not do so at least until the Hawaii Bioethics Council has had time to study the issue and confer with university leaders.
Critics also have decried genetic modifications of papaya. Although proponents say the GMO papaya saved the Hawaiian papaya industry, critics say the risks associated with GMO papaya outweigh the benefits. Already, critics say, GMO papaya plants have pollinated other unmodified papaya plants in the islands, something they call "biopollution."
But critics, who say Diversa's activities are acts of "biopiracy," charge that the university has given away property of the Hawaiian people, who will not benefit from the deal.
"It's like they're just giving away our biodiversity and leaving nothing for us," Nobrega said.
Kevin Kelly, director of business development at UH's Center for Marine Microbial Ecology & Diversity, said the university has not given anything away. Rather, he said, the agreement with Diversa is a research partnership similar to what UH would enter with another university.
Although the partnership hasn't yet produced revenue for UH, Kelly said, Diversa has offered internships for UH students, donated expensive equipment to the university and provided contacts with other potential partners.
Still, Kelly said the university welcomes dialogue with the native Hawaiian community.
"We are working harder than ever to engage this community as we move forward," said Kelly, who also is on the board of the Hawaii Life Sciences Council.
Legislation banning bioprospecting has been introduced in the Legislature, but thus far has stalled.
Declaration vs. biotech
The concerns have been serious enough to cause Hawaiian activists to create the annual Ka Aha Pono, or Native Hawaiian Intellectual Property Rights Conference, involving Hawaiian cultural practitioners, teachers, academics and lawyers.
The first event, in October 2003, produced the "Paoakalani Declaration," which is hardly an endorsement of biotechnology. In fact, the declaration says the industry imposes "western intellectual property rights over our traditional, cultural land-based resources" and "converts our collective cultural property into individualized property for purchase, sale and development."
The declaration concludes that native Hawaiians should have the right to determine "appropriate use of our traditional knowledge, cultural expressions and art forms, and natural and biological resources."
Trask and Nobrega said the Hawaii Life Sciences Council has ignored the declaration.
"What we've been trying over the last couple of years is really just to hear the voices of native Hawaiians and get native Hawaiians involved in the process," Nobrega said.
Gibson, the Hawaii Life Sciences Council's president, said the council was not aware of the declaration and that last month's meeting was meant simply to introduce a road map. She welcomed input from other Hawaiian groups.
"There's a big round table that we're trying to create," Gibson said.
Also concerned about the council's approach is Paul Neves, a spokesman for the Royal Order of Kamehameha on the Big Island. Neves said that Souza is a member of a Royal Order of Kamehameha group that split with the original order, and then incorporated. Neves questioned the group's sincerity.
"When you're talking about a corporation speaking for Hawaiians and saying 'We're going to be traditionally correct,' it's lip service," Neves said.
Souza said his order is the original one and called Neves "a disgruntled chief."
Native Hawaiians are not the only people struggling to reconcile their values with issues emerging at science's frontiers. David Magnus, director of the Stanford University Center for Bioethics in Palo Alto, Calif., said questions involving the commercialization of species frequently produce tensions.
On one hand, Magnus said, virtually every religion values bettering the world, which is a broad goal of biomedical research. However, Magnus said, religions generally frown on viewing the world in "instrumental terms."
"It's important that we not go too far and see everything in the world as a commodity for our use," he said.
Jonathan Osorio, director of the University of Hawaii's Center for Hawaiian Studies, said traditional Hawaiian values share that concern.
"It's always difficult to combine a capitalist enterprise with traditional Hawaiian values," he said.
During her speech at the forum, Lingle said policy-makers must take seriously concerns about issues such as genetically modified crops.
"These concerns must be addressed in an open, fair and culturally sensitive manner that includes that latest information about this complex and rapidly evolving field," Lingle said. "We must balance the needs of science and technology with the needs to protect our state's unique and fragile environment."
A place at the table
Generally, native Hawaiian representatives at the forum spoke in broader terms.
Apo, for example, focused on a management model based on the Hawaiian value of pono, or balance and harmony. Driven by pono values, the management model is meant to create corporate cultures offering dignity to employees and respect for Hawaii's community. It embraces a "triple bottom line": driven not just by profits but the benefits the enterprise brings to the people of the host community and the place in general.
In an interview, Hawaii Biotech's Watamull called the pono model "perfect for startups."
Cash-Kaeo, the president of Alu Like, said she and other Hawaiian leaders were brought to Hawaii Life Sciences Council's table early in the process, invited by Gibson and Enterprise Honolulu President and Chief Executive Mike Fitzgerald to attend roughly a dozen meetings over the course of a year.
"We had a place at the table, and it wasn't just a token place," she said in an interview. "Usually we're invited after everything is decided."
In his speech, Souza focused on the use and embracing of technology by Hawaii's royal chiefs.
Although Souza said in an interview that he shares concerns about certain activities, such as bioprospecting, he said Hawaiians seize an opportunity to engage in dialogue with the industry.
"Reaching out for science and technology doesn't mean acquiescing," he said. "It means working with it."
Lam, who is chairman of the Hawaii Bioethics Council, said it is essential to reconcile traditional Hawaiian values with biotechnology development, which he described as a wave that is carrying opportunity to the state.
If the Hawaii Life Sciences Council has failed to reach out to any concerned and competent Hawaiian leaders so far, Lam said, it might have been simply an oversight.
"They still have a lot to learn about the host culture," Lam said. "But that's OK. Nobody's perfect in the beginning."
Other article: Noni shows cancer promise
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Posted 3:42 PM by Luigi
Logging plans stirs concern in Temotus
From Markus Streil (GTZ Forestry Operations Specialist SPC/GTZ Pacific-German Regional Forestry Project - PGRFP): It looks to me like they just do not want the conventional ‘cut and run’ loggers take all, instead getting themselves involved and develop own capacities including processing. I mean if their harvesting intensity is appropriate (sustainable as PGRFP advocates: 30% of total stand > 35cm /medium) they can come back to coupe one / have a rotation of 26 years and with landowner consent and participation at the end it can be called well managed or even Sustainable Forestry Management. Maybe they need some advice and a good partner organisation to be able to go for SFM.
HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, July 11) - The announcement that a logging company has obtained a long-term contract to cut trees on Vanikoro Island in the Solomon Islands has upset landowners in the area. [PIR editor’s note: Vanikoro is in Temotu province, at the eastern limit of the Solomons.] A spokesperson for the landowners, Pae Vakimaru, said the announcement has raised concern because landowners were not consulted. He also noted a recent announcement by the Temotu provincial government that logging would be banned in the province.(there was an earlier article) “I live on Vanikoro but while in Honiara I heard that the Temotu Province is facilitating Vanikoro Timber Ltd.,” he said. “But during the Second Appointed Day, the deputy premier announced that the Vanikoro Lumber Ltd. will log the area for 26 years, which is all confusing.” He said there are rumors that the two companies are not registered businesses, but have registered an existing license, No. 132, in 1995 under ‘Vanikoro Saw Milli ng Company Ltd.,’ of which Augustine Nako is an applicant.
Sunday, July 10, 2005
Posted 8:46 PM by Luigi
Ethanol and biodiesel from crops not worth the energy?
There's been a lot in the news lately about bio-fuels. But do they stand up to the hype. Maybe not, according to a recent study.
ITHACA, N.Y. -- Turning plants such as corn, soybeans and sunflowers into fuel uses much more energy than the resulting ethanol or biodiesel generates, according to a new Cornell University and University of California-Berkeley study.
"There is just no energy benefit to using plant biomass for liquid fuel," says David Pimentel, professor of ecology and agriculture at Cornell. "These strategies are not sustainable."
Pimentel and Tad W. Patzek, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Berkeley, conducted a detailed analysis of the energy input-yield ratios of producing ethanol from corn, switch grass and wood biomass as well as for producing biodiesel from soybean and sunflower plants. Their report is published in Natural Resources Research (Vol. 14:1, 65-76).
In terms of energy output compared with energy input for ethanol production, the study found that:
"The United State desperately needs a liquid fuel replacement for oil in the near future," says Pimentel, "but producing ethanol or biodiesel from plant biomass is going down the wrong road, because you use more energy to produce these fuels than you get out from the combustion of these products."
Although Pimentel advocates the use of burning biomass to produce thermal energy (to heat homes, for example), he deplores the use of biomass for liquid fuel. "The government spends more than $3 billion a year to subsidize ethanol production when it does not provide a net energy balance or gain, is not a renewable energy source or an economical fuel. Further, its production and use contribute to air, water and soil pollution and global warming," Pimentel says. He points out that the vast majority of the subsidies do not go to farmers but to large ethanol-producing corporations.
"Ethanol production in the United States does not benefit the nation's energy security, its agriculture, economy or the environment," says Pimentel. "Ethanol production requires large fossil energy input, and therefore, it is contributing to oil and natural gas imports and U.S. deficits." He says the country should instead focus its efforts on producing electrical energy from photovoltaic cells, wind power and burning biomass and producing fuel from hydrogen conversion.
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Posted 5:40 PM by Luigi
Root Crops Agrobiodiversity Project in Vanuatu
Funded by FFEM (Fonds Français pour l’Environnement Mondial) MQAFF and CIRAD, this project is now off the ground. Dr Vincent Lebot of CIRAD says that two researchers arrived in april. They have completed work in two villages in Malo and Santo (178 vars of taro and 83 of yams in one village) . In July they are in Tanna, then Erromango. In August they will do Epi and Ambrym, in Sept. will do Pentecost and Ambae, in October Malekula and in November Vanua Lava. The first survey will be completed in December followe dby SSR fingerprinting of approximately 1000 accessions. Details of the project are as follows.
Introduction, Background and Rationale
Vanuatu has found great difficulty in sustaining the conservation and genetic improvement of lesser root crops, mostly aroids (Alocasia macrorrhizos, Amorphophallus campanulatus, Colocasia esculenta, Cyrtosperma chamissonis, Xanthosoma sagittifolium) and yams (Dioscorea alata, D. bulbifera, D. cayenensis-rotundata, D. esculenta, D. nummularia, D. pentaphylla, D. transversa, D. trifida). The persistent attempts to collect and conserve germplasm and to make use of the resources over more than 30 years are evidence of this. Aroids and yams have also become the neglected crops of the international community, although locally important as staples and/or reserve foods used in times of need, as rich sources of vitamins, dietary fibre and minerals or as folk medicines. Invariably, they are grown or left to grow without the addition of fertilisers or pesticides. As a group, these species are efficient food plants and if marginal land is to be brought into production to support burgeoning populations, the potential of these crops is interesting.
In Vanuatu and elsewhere in the tropics, their conservation is fraught with difficulty: ex situ collections are expensive to maintain and methods for “on-farm” conservation have not been studied. Numerous collections have been made and lost several times in Vanuatu (and in many other tropical countries). In response to the problems of maintaining ex situ field collections, some countries have established in vitro collections without significant results. Cryopreservation, although attractive, has not proven to be practical. Furthermore, the storage of true botanical seeds is still problematical for most root crops species.
In Vanuatu, collections have been assembled and described using conventional approaches, involving agro-morphological descriptions and molecular tools, but they have been poorly utilised in genetic improvement programmes. Since Independence in 1980, the various Vanuatu governments have shown repeatedly the desire to improve their production but have been unable to maintain the technical capacity required over the long term. The consequence for the lack of interest in root crops species is now that they are loosing their competitive position in traditional cropping systems as diets are changing rapidly.
Similarities shared by root crop species in Vanuatu
All cultivars are vegetatively propagated and they share a narrow genetic base. Their flowering is erratic, they have variable ploidy levels, are predominantly allogamous, highly heterozygous and are, of course, cultivated for the interesting chemical compositions of their underground organs. Some of these biological characteristics are not specific to these root crops but they often present all of them together. Unlike most crops, they are not cultivated for the characteristics of their sexual organs (i.e., fruits and seeds). In fact, in many cases, flowers and true botanical seeds are virtually unknown to farmers. Many cultivars are clones of edible wild forms and a few putative wild forms are probably feral plants escaped from cultivation. Some cultivars are also clones of hybrids between wild forms and feral or cultivated plants. It is also possible to observe a deterioration of the attractive traits exhibited by a cultivar when it becomes feral. The physico-chemical characteristics of the under-ground organs deteriorate rapidly if the soil texture is not improved regularly and/or if the plant is not subjected to a periodic sexual propagation and selection.
Most of the allelic diversity is found within the wild gene pool, although most of the agro-morphological variation is found within the cultivars. Compared to cultivars, wild forms present limited morphological variation. Cultivars share a narrow genetic base but present numerous variable morphotypes which are probably the result of past sexual recombinations and clonal selections of somatic mutants. Root crop growers can select variants for the sake of increasing the number of distinct morphotypes preserved in their varietal portfolio. In Vanuatu, the national cultivars collections are therefore assembling limited allelic diversity. This has been observed for cultivars of taro and for D. alata.
In Vanuatu, farmers often give the priority to taste rather than yield and yield potential is never reached in farmers’ fields. Yam tubers and aroid corms do not present a uniform shape at harvest, thus making it difficult for mechanical peeling and marketing. Internal colour ranges from white to dark purple and may include combinations of two or more colours. Their texture varies after cooking and there is a lack of information on the physico-chemical characteristics of the starches that hinders utilisation. Among the priority breeding objectives are corms and tubers with acceptable quality, i.e., an appropriate dry matter content, a good cooking texture, taste, and no oxidation (rate of enzymatic browning).
We can therefore draw some practical guidelines for the preservation and use of root crops genetic resources in Vanuatu.
We know that the genetic bases of these crops are narrow, vulnerable to introduced pathogens and that it must be broadened if the crop is to be able to respond to rapid environmental changes. However, in order to be acceptable to farmers, and to be kept as part of their varietal portfolio, any new genotypes must exhibit an interesting attribute or perform better than those presently cultivated. Also, for them to be useful in the future, these genotypes need to have sexual reproductive potential, which means that their ploidy levels, crossability and genetic make-up must be understood. Considering the economic situation of minor root crop producers and the low-input cultivation systems which are often involving different cultivars, an appropriate approach could be to increase farmers' long-term access to useful genes. This could be done via the geographical distribution of allelic diversity and is probably a practical alternative to present conservation activities.
The geographical distribution of allelic diversity follows a three steps approach:
Distribution of genotypic diversity
Selection of villages (communities)
This will constitute a record of the situation at time 0, the beginning of the project.
Year four: surveys will be conducted to assess the potential changes at the village level in farmers’ portfolio and study the causes for adoption or rejection of the genotypes introduced. An assessment of the preservation stage of local genotypes will be conducted. Monographs will be produced and distributed to villages (communities) to present the situation in year 4 of the project.
Posted 5:19 PM by Luigi
Breadfruit industry workshop held
Fiji Times - Monday, July 04, 2005
A breadfruit industry workshop was held to discuss the procedures in growing breadfruit as an export good at Legalega research station in Nadi.
The director of research for the agriculture Ministry Jainendra Kumar said there was an urgent need to find solutions in terms of cultivation practices and post harvest treatments to increase the scope for the breadfruit market.
He said breadfruit was an important food crop in many countries especially in the Carribean and the Pacific but the distance of the market centres had become a major issue for the stakeholders in the trade.
The quality of the crop due to its highly perishable nature becomes a problem while exporting.
A project team funded by the NZAid designed a draft manual for "Growing and marketing of breadfruit for export".
Breadfruit export began in October 2001 and current exports stand at around 15 tonnes annually," Project Co-ordinator Andrew McGregor said.
He said the current export was less than what was in the Strategic Plan, which estimated 100 tonnes of crops to be exported by now.
Mr McGregor said to increase the export closer to the market potential would require a lot of effort in areas such as growing and harvesting of the crop.
"The draft manual that we are still trying to finalise is intended to assist our growers and exporters in meeting this challenge."
The manual also provides advice to growers and exporters on the handling of breadfruit for successful export.
The project team hoped that joint efforts by all stakeholders and farmers would see an increase in production to 500 tonnes of breadfruit for export in the next five years.
Posted 3:56 PM by Luigi
Youth to Youth program promotes rare and nutrient-rich banana varieties of Pohnpei
From Dr Lois Englberger
I would like to share with you a letter that has just been published in the newsletter of the Task Force Sight and Life, based in Switzerland, near Basel. The article is about the Youth to Youth program promoting the rare and nutrient-rich banana varieties of Pohnpei and features color photos of the Seinwar Class 6 schoolchildren, including photos of them preparing Taiwang Banana pancakes and planting Karat banana at the school. Sight and Life provided prizes (the Sight and Life cloth bags showing their logo and website) for the children who did best on the pop quizzes, and this added a lot of interest to the project. Sight and Life has provided much support to Pohnpei in recent years in the efforts to fighting vitamin A deficiency in Pohnpei and the other states of FSM. This has included funds for projects, posters, and also analyzing many Micronesian foods, such as Karat, in their Swiss laboratory.
Here's the article:
The Island Food Community of Pohnpei would like to thank you for the SIGHT AND LIFE bags and share with you our use of them in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia. We used them as prizes for the children who named the greatest number of different Pohnpei banana varieties! The children were delighted!
This was part of our collaborative project with the Conservation Society of Pohnpei in the Youth to Youth Program with 6th Grade primary school children. This year we worked with Seinwar School, which is in a rural area around 40 minutes drive out of the main town of the island of Pohnpei.
Our topic is promoting and conserving rare varieties of Pohnpei bananas. This relates to vitamin A work, as we have discovered that here in Pohnpei 15 of the 42 banana varieties contain high levels of provitamin A carotenoids, all these having yellow- and orange-colored flesh. Banana is a major staple food in Pohnpei. Thus, on this island where over half the children have vitamin A deficiency, there is great potential for alleviating that health problem by increasing consumption of carotenoid-rich banana varieties.
Our first session with Seinwar School was held in December. As a part of our first talk, we explained that Pohnpei banana varieties were analyzed in several laboratories, including one in Switzerland, which is supported by SIGHT AND LIFE. We showed the children on the classroom world map where Switzerland is. We also showed them the bag and the SIGHT AND LIFE logo, and explained that it represents the eyeball and the letter “A” to show the relationship of vitamin A to good eyesigh
Then we explained the importance of knowing about the different Pohnpei bananas and asked them to write down all the different varieties that they could. We explained that the student listing the most varieties would receive a SIGHT AND LIFE bag.
The children were from 11 to 13 years old and were very interested in the topic. Three students listed 13 different Pohnpei banana varieties, and became the winners.
At one session a cooking class was held, with students learning how to make carotenoid-rich banana recipes (Karat Banana Bread and Taiwang Pancakes). Students also learned how to plant a Karat banana, carrying out this exercise right at the school premises. Students later made the recipes in their homes, bringing the teacher samples to show, and reported that they had planted various rare bananas with their families on their own land. At the island-wide annual Youth to Youth Fair, the students gave a moving presentation about the importance of the carotenoid-rich banana varieties of Pohnpei and what they had learned. Mr Ben Namakin, Conservation Society of Pohnpei, and Ms Amy Levendusky, Pohnpei Agriculture/Peace Corps Micronesia and Ms. Yumiko Paul, Pohnpei Department of Health, facilitated the classes. Thank you again for the SIGHT AND LIFE bags, which made our visits popular, and contributed to an increased awareness of the carotenoid-rich banana varieties of Pohnpei!
Dr. Lois Englberger, PhD
Island Food Community of Pohnpei
P. O. Box 2299
Kolonia, Pohnpei 96941FM
Federated States of Micronesia
Posted 3:06 PM by Luigi
Vanuatu Government vehicles to convert to biofuel from July 1
From Markus Streil, GTZ - Forestry Operations Specialist, SPC/GTZ Pacific-German Regional Forestry Project (PGRFP)
From the start of this month, the Government of Vanuatu has begun converting all its vehicles to run on home grown bio-fuel. The change-over is being made in response to the soaring global cost of oil, and also to assist Vanuatu in meeting its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.
Presenter/Interviewer: Paul Allen
Speakers: Joseph Kasten, Acting Director Ministry of Infrastructure
I just spoke to someone in Vanuatu familiar with this project and he said a private company is producing this 'bio-fuel' called 'B70'. It is a mix produced out of coconut oil (70%) and diesel.
They are using locally produced coconut oil (local copra price paid is like world market price) and it's sold for Vt 115/ltr. (Diesel Vt 127/ltr) on stations.
Found also on the Internet:
http://www.tve.org/ho/doc.cfm?aid=1431&lang=English - Coconut Crude in Vanuatu - about their R&D
http://www.spc.org.nc/preface/press%20releases/Copra/3%20Regional%20and%20National%20Context.pdf - regional seminar findings
http://jubileesouth.org/news/EpZlEElVuFZoLfUGou.shtml: One of such initiatives is the development of Biofuel by VAST (Vanuatu Sea Transport Limited. The biofuel is a 50/50 mixture of diesel which is the facilitator and coconut oil after, FFA's (Free Fatty Acids), water and glycerides have been extracted. VAST has invested nearly a million Australian dollars for its factory headquarters in Port Vila, and planned to purchase up to AUD$350,000 worth of coconuts. According to VAST (Trading Post, Feb 8, 2003), the benefits to Vanuatu are increased income to coconut farmers and oil producers giving a boost to the coconut industry. For government, there would be Value Added Tax collected on value added bio-fuel. For consumers and government departments there would be lower fuel bills. The use of a renewable energy source is also known to be kinder to the environment. Lastly, for every liter of coconut oil blended, is a litter of not imported, so the money remains in Vanuatu. Another initiative that is currently utilizing coconut oil is managed by Tony Deamer of Vila Motor Traders ... currently campaigning to convince Vanuatu motorists to top their fuel tanks with a mix of diesel and coconut oil, by running tests ... Another similar initiative by Coconut Oil Production Vanuatu Ltd. (COLP) opened in 2000 a $A6 million copra mill at Luganville, Santo. Its two expellers extract 1,200 tonnes of oil monthly from 2,000 tonnes of copra. COLP wishes to add to this investment in buying two more extra expellers (worth over $A8 million). The mill employs a hundred people. (Pacific Island Business, June 2000)
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