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?
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Posted 3:43 AM by Luigi
Kumara claim becomes hot potato
By Jon Stokes, New Zealand Herald.
A Maori group has lodged a claim for the commercial rights to three varieties of kumara, and demands "the varieties of kumara in Aotearoa be restored to the control of Maori".
The claim to the Waitangi Tribunal is one of a number being heard in Wellington this week relating to the Wai 262 Flora and Fauna claim.
The group says the Crown breached the Treaty by failing to preserve pre-European kumara varieties, and deliberately allowed the last remaining stocks to be lost to overseas collections.
The group is seeking "the varieties of kumara in Aotearoa be restored to the control of Maori" and full commercial rights to the hutihuti, rekamaroa and taputini varieties - a smaller kumara with white skin and flesh.
However, the claim was yesterday thrown into doubt by the testimony of Crown witness and historian Dr Ashley Gould.
He said it was unlikely that the original kumara variety brought to the country by Maori about 1000 years ago still survived. He said the popularity of the new higher yielding varieties, introduced probably by American whalers in the early 19th century, began the demise of the ancient stocks.
The new varieties soon replaced the smaller variety of Maori kumara.
Dr Gould said doubt remained about the purity of at least two of the three varieties claimed by Maori.
He said the mericana, or kaipakeha, a sweet potato introduced in the mid-1800s, had similar characteristics to the hutihuti and rekamaroa. In the 1860s the waina variety was introduced with its distinctive red skin and yellow or cream flesh.
The waina was thought to have spawned varieties including the owairaka red, the most common commercial crop today.
"In my view, rekamaroa and, in probability, the ... hutihuti, are not survivals of pre-contact varieties." New Zealand's commercial crop centres around three varieties, the beauregard, a recent import, the toka toka gold, a 19th-century import, and the owairaka red. "There is no link between commercial lines and any varieties assumed to have been present in New Zealand pre-contact," Dr Gould said.
"Late 19th-century observers were clear ... new varieties of kumara and the impact of the potato on the Maori economy, saw the probable disappearance of most, if not all, the pre-contact varieties."
Dell Wihongi, a leading figure in the claim, said the hutihuti, rekamaroa and taputini were the last remaining varieties of the indigenous crop, and it was important Maori were recognised as guardians.
Ms Wihongi is a member of Te Pu Hao Rangi Trust, guardians of the early kumara, involved in a joint venture with Tahuri Whenua Inc, the National Maori Vegetable Growers Collective, to explore the economic potential of the early kumara.
The WAI 262 claim before the tribunal seeks exclusive and comprehensive rights to indigenous flora and fauna as well as all Maori cultural knowledge, customs and practices. It is a mammoth claim that began in 1991. Closing submissions from both sides are expected by the end of March.
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Sunday, February 25, 2007
Posted 10:15 PM by Luigi
Fiji farmers cautioned on weather
The Agriculture Ministry is requesting farmers in the low-lying flood prone areas to take precautionary measures in a bid to minimize flood damages to their crops and livestock.
This request follows warnings from Director of Meteorology Rajendra Prasad, who said a tropical depression moving across the region is expected to bring more rain and gusty winds for the rest of the week.
According to the Director for Animal Health and Production, Joeli Vakabua, animals should be taken to higher grounds before the floods arrive and tied there.
"Animals should be moved during daylight and not at night or in the hours of darkness where flying or drifting roofing materials could injure both animals and humans," advised Mr Vakabua.
"Farmers also have to be wary of culverts and other waterways created by floods and keep family members and animals away from them." He also added that after the flood, grass should be cut for livestock while awaiting human rehabilitation and assistance.
Acting Principal Agriculture Officer (Central) Uraia Waibuta also commented on the current weather pattern prevailing in and around the country and said that farmers need to be cautious.
"Soil conservation is an integral part of farming and if we continue to cut down trees and just use land anyhow, we should expect great damages to our farms," he said.
"That is the reason we are pleading with farmers to always take advice from us especially when it comes to soil conservation because that is the only way we can keep our crops from major damages," he explained.
"This weather will probably go on for a few more days since we are into the cyclone period, so it is best for farmers to follow these precautionary measures so that losses are at a minimum."
Farmers have been asked to seek further advice from agricultural staff in the various localities whether it is crops or livestock.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
Posted 11:34 PM by Luigi
Eight Pacific Island Nations Head "Fattest Countries" List
From Forbes.com, thanks to Dr Lois Englberger for alerting us to the article.
World Health Organization research has disclosed that Pacific Island nations dominate a list of countries with the greatest percentage of overweight people, reports Forbes.com.
Nauru tops the list with the greatest percentage of overweight people at 94.5 percent of its population. It is followed by the Federated States of Micronesia, Cook Islands, Tonga, Niue, Samoa, Palau, Kuwait, the United States and Kiribati in the top 10.
Experts blame the trend on urbanization and the influx of Western ways of life such as fast food, little exercise and stressful jobs.
"Modernization is causing countries with small populations and few resources to depend on imported, often over-processed food. The Western diet overwhelms, and many people are not genetically engineered to cope with this," says Neville Rigby of the International Association for the Study of Obesity.
Studies conducted by the WHO Western Pacific regional office and by the International Obesity Task Force, a London-based think tank, also point to several other factors they say contribute to the Pacific Island region’s high obesity rates. These include the common belief that beauty is marked by a large physical size, the reliance on fatty, nutrient-deficient imported foods and a decrease in activity caused by less farming and agricultural work.
Friday, February 23, 2007
Posted 6:15 AM by Luigi
The importance of cassava seeds
The unappreciated ecology of landrace populations: Conservation consequences of soil seed banks in cassava
by Benoît Pujola, François Renouxc, Marianne Eliasd, Laura Rivale and Doyle Mckey
Abstract. Failure to take into account the ecological complexity of landrace populations of crop plants limits our ability to conserve their genetic resources in situ. Soil seed banks are a central feature of the ecology of landrace populations of cassava; their existence has consequences for conservation. Seedlings recruited from seed banks are incorporated by farmers into their stocks of clones of this vegetatively propagated crop, transforming pure clonality into a mixed clonal/sexual reproductive system. Soil seed banks, and farmers’ responses to them, play an important role in maintaining diversity in populations of cassava landraces. In a study combining genetic and ethnobiological approaches, we showed the following: (i) Recruitment from soil seed banks increased diversity of populations at the local scale. At the level of a field, the presence of plants issued from seeds resulted in significantly greater diversity of genotypes and phenotypes than if only individuals planted by farmers had been present. (ii) Farmers’ use of seed banks has enabled indirect ‘exchange’ of locally adapted cassava germplasm between cultural groups, without requiring that groups actually encountered one another and engaged in social exchange of cultivars. (iii) Farmers have responded to catastrophic crop failure by using seed banks to regenerate stocks of clones. This use of seed banks should enable cassava populations to respond to disasters by an increase of genetic diversity, rather than by a narrowing of the genetic base, often feared in such situations.
Posted 5:33 AM by Luigi
Breadfruit in high demand locally and overseas
From the Fiji Times, (Friday, February 23, 2007).
Fiji's breadfruit is in high demand, both in local and overseas markets locally, says local businessman Surendra Kumar.
The Agriculture Ministry's Quarantine Division revealed that close to six tonnes of breadfruit was exported overseas last year.
Mr Kumar, the director of Mahen's Export, said there was a very strong demand overseas for quality breadfruit.
He said the taste and quality of Fiji breadfruit was highly preferred in overseas markets.
Mr Kumar said Fiji's tropical climate gave the fruit its best quality and taste.
"Estimated export for this year is around six to seven tonnes,"he said.
Mahen's Export buys the fruit at $1 a kilogram at the farm gate and exports at $1.80-$2 a kilogram.
Quality Controller of Food Processors (Fiji) Ltd representative, Sangeeta Prasad, said they faced a shortage of breadfruit due to the increase in demand for canned breadfruit overseas.
Ms Prasad said they needed one to two tonnes of breadfruit a day for processing.
FPL supplies canned breadfruit to Australia New Zealand and Canada.
Farmers from Sigatoka, Verata and the Tailevu area are mostly supplying the breadfruit to the processing factory.
Senior Agriculture Officer, Lautoka, Rajesh Prasad said farmers who wanted to supply fresh breadfruit to exporters needed to register their farm under Bilateral Quarantine Agreement (BQA).
"This is to ensure that they adhere to the quarantine and export requirements. There are 20 different varieties of breadfruits in Fiji but only two varieties, Uto Dina and Bale Kana are currently being exported,"he said
Mr Prasad said apart from fresh exports, breadfruit was also vacuum packed to help preserve the fruit for longer.
He said fresh breadfruit has to be treated under a high temperature, forced air treatment before it could be exported.
He said the Agriculture Ministry encouraged farmers to grow more breadfruit to meet the increased demand overseas. The ministry is also working closely with exporters in supervising the spraying of breadfruit trees to control pests. Breadfruit also lasts longer if grilled over an open fire or in a lovo and is often cooked in many ways.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Posted 5:48 AM by Luigi
FAO taps coconut water potential
By Anthony Fletcher, FoodNavigator.
A simple cold preservation process could help increase sales of bottled coconut water – a product yet to fully tap the growth of health and energy drinks.
The FAO, which is promoting the process, wants to boost the commercialisation of coconut water and help small farmers to gain market share.
The organisation has published a training guide to this effect.
"The cold preservation process requires little investment and skills, and it offers small entrepreneurs a chance to enter the market of bottling coconut water of good quality," said Rosa Rolle of FAO's rural infrastructure and agro-industries division.
Coconut water, the liquid endosperm inside young coconuts, has long been a popular drink in the tropics. It is naturally fat-free and low in food energy (16.7 calories or 70 kJ per 100 g), and has potential as a sports drink because of its high potassium and mineral content.
West Europe's energy drink sales accelerated by 15 per cent to a volume of 383 million litres and a value of over €3 billion in 2005, according to drinks consultancy Zenith International.
A further 12 per cent rise was expected to be achieved in 2006, taking volume to 428 million litres, which equates to an average of 1.5 litres per person.
Coconut water's potential however remains largely untapped. To date, most coconut water is still consumed fresh in tropical countries, largely because, once exposed to air and warm temperatures, it rapidly deteriorates.
In addition, canned coconut water is not ideal. Sterilising the product using high temperature and short-time pasteurisation destroys some of the nutrients in coconut water and almost all of the delicate flavour.
The cold preservation process recommended by FAO instead protects the natural flavour of coconut water. The process involves filtration, bottling and rigorous temperature control.
It allows farmers to produce bottled coconut water that stays fresh from 10 days to three weeks. This will help to meet demands from domestic retail markets.
"The simple cold preservation process will provide the consumer the convenience of purchasing a bottle of refreshing coconut water and opens new opportunities for small farmers and entrepreneurs in coconut producing countries," said Rolle.
The cold preservation technology is not protected by a patent and can be used by anybody.
This process was developed and evaluated in Jamaica, in close collaboration with the University of the West Indies, the Coconut Industries Board and the Jamaican Scientific Research Council.
Posted 3:44 AM by Luigi
Pacific yams helped out
Efforts are being made to resolve some of the agronomic and economic constraints that are holding back the production of yams in the Pacific communities, reports Janet Lawrence here. She's talking about a new ACIAR project being implemented in Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Vanuatu called "Nutritional Disorders of Yams." This involves research into soil nutrient deficiencies to determine whether yields can be economically elevated using soil fertility management techniques to diagnose and correct nutritional disorders (contact: Dr Jane O'Sullivan, firstname.lastname@example.org).
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Posted 5:01 AM by Luigi
Taro in vitro thesis online
Ms Valerie Tuia, SPC Regional Germplasm Centre Curator, informs us that her thesis on taro in vitro multiplication is now online as a pdf here. You can also track it down via the USP Library here.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Posted 11:27 PM by Luigi
Breadfruit meeting website launched
The organizing committee for the International Breadfruit Symposium are pleased to announce the launching of the website for this meeting. Please visit http://www.spc.int/lrd/breadfruit and find out all about this first-ever international breadfruit meeting.
Agrobiodiversity Weblog: For discussions of conservation and sustainable use of the genetic resources of crops, livestock and their wild relatives.