A blog maintained by Tevita Kete, PGR Officer

Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva, Fiji Islands



This weblog documents the activities of Pacific Agricultural Genetic Resources Network (PAPGREN), along with other information on plant genetic resources (PGR) in the Pacific.

The myriad varieties found within cultivated plants are fundamental to the present and future productivity of agriculture. PAPGREN, which is coordinated by the Land Resources Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), helps Pacific countries and territories to conserve their crop genetic diversity sustainably, with technical assistance from the Bioversity International (BI) and support from NZAID and ACIAR.

SPC also hosts the Centre of Pacific Crops and Trees (CEPaCT). The CEPaCT maintains regional in vitro collections of crops important to the Pacific and carries out research on tissue culture technology. The CEPaCT Adviser is Dr Mary Taylor (MaryT@spc.int), the CEPaCT Curator is Ms Valerie Tuia (ValerieT@spc.int).




PAPGREN coordination and support

  • CTA
  • SPC
  • CEPaCT

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

    PAPGREN partners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Other links

    Other CROP agencies
    Forum Secretariat
    University of the South Pacific

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

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

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

    Interested in GIS?



    Monday, July 25, 2005

    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

    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:
    1. The virus is unable to completely infect and spread through all parts of kava plants
    2. It is easily lost from the mouthparts of the insects that spread it when they feed on non hosts.

    Details are now being finalised, but the package is basically:

    1. Start with healthy plants

    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.

    2. Slow the spread of the disease from plant to plant when it appears

    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.
    Since then, it has been discovered, using biotechnology, that many symptomless stems and new growth on infected plants are virus-free. This implies that vigilant removal of only kava stems showing early signs of disease could be an effective policy. How well this practice works is now being tested by both scientists and growers in Fiji and Tonga.

    3. Smart cropping: use natural barriers to reduce the spread of the disease

    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.

    4. Choose a good planting location

    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.

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