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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Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Posted 9:37 PM by Luigi
Experts put bite on dalo beetles
VERENAISI RAICOLA, Fiji Times, 19 July 2006
Beetle-damaged dalo cannot be exported or sold to supermarkets.
Badly damaged dalo cannot even be cooked for home consumption that is how bad it can get.
So one can imagine the loss incurred when any farmer loses his or her crop to the dalo beetle.
The dalo beetle has been a serious pest in Fiji and other Pacific countries for several years now.
It is a direct threat to Fiji's multi-million dollar dalo export industry.
While the beetle has not been found on Taveuni, it is widespread in Naitasiri and Tailevu where farmers have lost their livelihood as a result.
It is widespread along the east coast of Viti Levu, including outer islands.
The pest lives in the soil and burrows inside the dalo corm, leaving behind a maze of tunnels.
The corm rots soon after beetle contact, destroying from 4 to 25 per cent of the crop.
For subsistence farmers, this is a big chunk of their livelihood, causing psychological strain as money thought to be in hand is lost once infestation spreads.
Farmers who have suffered heavy losses to dalo beetle damage can breathe a sigh of relief now with an effective pesticide treatment now available.
Two chemical treatments for fighting dalo beetles have been identified after years of research pioneered by the Taro Beetle Management project.
The collaboration between the South Pacific Commission and island states affected by the beetle resulted in the good news.
The two insecticides imidacloprid and bifenthrin will be launched tomorrow at Tokotoko, in Navua, after approval was given for the chemicals to be registered locally as pesticides.
A chemical residue analysis carried out by the University of the South Pacific shows acceptable levels of pesticides in treated dalo corms, indicating it is safe to eat.
These results will not only reassure consumers but boost exports.
SPC entomologist Sada Lal, who was involved in the research, said recommendation of the insecticides was the result of several years of research.
A Pacific Regional Agricultural development project funded byEU from 1989 to 2000, and based in Solomon Islands, worked on several aspects of beetle management, but by the end there was no effective control measures recommended to growers.
"Picking up from that, a four-year project funded by the Australian Centre forInternational Agricultural Research (ACIAR), started in 2002," Mr Lal said.
"SPC, taking the lead role in collaboration with research workers in Fiji and PNG, worked on a few selected insecticides and bio agents, plus giving consideration to cultural and other practices," he said.
Mr Lal said in the first year of field experiments, imidacloprid showed that over 95 per cent of harvested taro corms were undamaged.
"The insecticide was further evaluated in laboratories and field experiments.
"Another insecticide, bifenthrin showed similar results in controlling the beetle."
Residue analysis studies were conducted to check the levels of the insecticide residue in the harvested corms.
Mr Lal said if the insecticides were used as recommended, there should be no problem of any residues in the harvested crop.
Similar work was conducted in Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Kiribati and New Caledonia with funds provided by EU.
"These insecticides are now recommended for use for control of the taro beetle. It took us four years and about $F1m to come up with this solution," he said.
ACIAR has extended the program for two years in Fiji and PNG for adaptive research work.
The proper uses of the recommended insecticides are now being demonstrated to dalo growers.
The Ministry of Agriculture is finalising the program for the launch, which will see more than 300 farmers from Navua to Naitasiri attend an occasion they have dreamt of for years.
The integrated and holistic approach adopted for a solution to the dalo beetle problem involved input from thematic areas groups of LRD including bio-security, plant health, crop production and information and extension.
The beetle is the biggest threat to the dalo industry, which earned $19million in export revenue last year.
It is estimated 40 per cent of dalo harvested is unmarketable because of damage caused by the beetle.
Several other insecticides were tested using typical grower techniques as SPC and ACIAR research scientists worked with Ministry of Agriculture staff to identify relevant control measures. Farmers were continuously consulted on their views on the use of the insecticides.
Recent testing of the two insecticides was carried out on fields, with an emphasis on following safety rules for mixing chemicals.
These on-farm trials, in Naitasiri, Ovalau, Navua and Tailevu, gave farmers hands-on experience in learning the correct techniques for mixing and applying the chemicals.
SPC staff and Koronivia research staff worked together to fine-tune the dosage for applying the chemicals.
The pesticide is applied at planting time then at three-month intervals.
At the launch, more farmers will have a chance to see first hand how the insecticide is mixed and how to apply it. They will practice the mixing procedure to give them confidence in safe handling of the chemicals.
AgChem and MH Ltd are the local firms that registered Imidaclorprid under the names Suncloprid and Confidor.
Their representatives will be available to explain the proper handling of chemicals to people in Fijian and Hindi at the launch.
The two companies will have on display other products used for dalo cultivation.
Fiji Agromarketing chief executive Epi Tulele said when the dalo plants were infested it could not be marketed and, therefore, had a negative impact on farmers.
Mr Tulele said they simply avoided buying infested dalo. "To make sure our products are safe we have stringent measures in place and we really check the crops we market.
"We empty all dalo bags and examine each one to make sure there are no holes when we bring it from the farmers," he said.
Mr Tulele said when the dalo on Viti Levu was infested with beetles they started buying supplies from Taveuni farmers.
"Taveuni dalo farmers breached the gap so it did not directly affect export markets when production from Viti Levu was reduced because of the beetles."
He said every now and again there was an oversupply or shortage of dalo so farmers were encouraged to plant more to meet the growing demand.
Mr Tulele said the breakthrough in solving the beetle problem would benefit subsistence farmers, more than commercial farmers.
He said while the overseas dalo market was competitive, it was well serviced by suppliers. The opportunity to expand overseas markets is limited and a lot of people prefer Taveuni dalo. But more supply is certainly needed for our local outlets."
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