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, January 21, 2009
Posted 12:56 PM by Tevita
Coconut oil exports for 2009 to decline
From : Business Mirror
Written by Jennifer A. Ng / Reporter
Monday, 19 January 2009 21:07
THE country’s exports of coconut oil (CNO) may decline by 0.7 percent to 835,000 metric tons (MT) in 2009, from the estimated 840,547 MT last year due to an increase in demand for CNO in the domestic market, especially for biodiesel feedstock.
The United Coconut Associations of the Philippines Inc. (UCAP) also projected that exports of all coconut products will decline by 0.8 percent to 1.619 million metric tons (MMT) in copra terms, from the estimated 1.632 MMT shipped out last year due to a need to boost stocks, which had been sharply depleted.
In a statement posted on its web site, UCAP said shipments of oleochemicals will also decline by 9 percent to 80,000 MT this year, from the estimated 87,952 MT shipped out last year.
UCAP said shipments of all other coconut products will post increases this year. Exports of dessicated coconut will go up by 1.8 percent to 138,000 MT, from 135,609 MT, while copra meal will post an increase of 4.5 percent to 460,000, from 440,066 MT in 2008.
Coconut production for 2009, UCAP projected, will go up by 5.4 percent to 2.516 MMT, from the 2008 output estimated initially at 2.386 MMT.
UCAP said the projection was based on much improved weather conditions in 2008 with rainfall levels in coconut-growing regions at mostly above normal. The group noted that the continuous above-normal rains during the first semester of the year which usually record lower precipitation level, most of the time below normal in the first quarter.
The Philippines is eyeing to ship out at least 1 MMT of coconut oil CNO in 2009 as it expects the demand for the commodity will recover in 2009, an official of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) said earlier.
PCA deputy administrator Arturo Liquete said shipments of the country’s top farm export could rebound this year, especially if the global economic situation improves.
Liquete and UCAP had earlier admitted that the country will have a hard time achieving its target of shipping out 1 MMT of coconut oil last year because of the global economic slump.
Posted 12:21 PM by Tevita
Water implications of biofuel crops:
understanding tradeos and identifying options
From : IWMI
Biofuels are being touted as a solution to rising fuel prices, growing
energy demands, and the need to curb emissions of greenhouse
gases. Governments have good reasons for promoting biofuels.
Yet, a headlong rush into growing biofuel crops will bring its own
problems. Unless planned properly, biofuel crops are likely to
escalate competition for water, especially in areas where it is already
New research shows what options policymakers have for making
tradeos between biofuels and other uses of water. And, biofuel
crops that give ‘more crop per drop’ lessen the negative impacts and
boost the positive impacts.
• The development of biofuels will have an impact on water, food, energy and
the environment. How biofuels will affect these must be considered before
• Globally, there is enough water to produce both food and biofuel. But, in
countries where water is already scarce, like India and China, growing biofuel crops
will aggravate existing problems.
• Producing one liter of ethanol from sugarcane takes nearly 3,500 liters of
precious irrigation water in India, but just 90 liters of irrigation water in Brazil.
In China, it takes 2,400 liters of irrigation for maize to yield a liter of ethanol.
• Certain biofuel crops, such as jatropha trees and sweet sorghum, are less likely
to compete with food crops, use much less water, and have much less impact
on food production and the environment than others.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Posted 2:32 PM by Tevita
Food plants database online
From : Didinet
An extensive database of edible plants, most of which are from PNG, is now online, courtesy of the Food Plants International (FPI), a not-for-profit organisation that aims to provide information about edible plants with the objective of 'Helping the Hungry Feed Themselves'. The url is: www.foodplantsinternational.com. According to this site, it is the world's largest database of edible food plants, containing useful information on over 18,000 food plants.
There are a huge number of undervalued and overlooked food plants in the world. Although not complete, the FPI database provides accessible information about these plants to support production of locally relevant and nutritious food, and enable people to appropriately value their local foods. Information posted on the site says that: “The searchable database has information on scientific name, genus, common names, synonyms, plant description, production and use notes, nutritional value, pictures and references.”
“Our goal is to provide information that enables people to choose the right plant for their environment, to give them stable food production and a greater choice of plants to enrich their diets and improve their nutritional wellbeing.”
FPI was formally established in 1999, with origins going back to 1980. Bruce French, founder of FPI, was living in PNG at the time, and noticed that many villagers suffered disease and malnutrition, often while surrounded by nutritious food plants. It wasn't that they didn't know anything about their local plants, but there were clearly a lot more edible plants than was readily recognised. Also, there was very little nutritional information available about the plants. Bruce also observed that most of the information taught in agricultural colleges related to temperate plants commonly produced in Western agriculture. From these humble beginnings, Bruce set out to document the food plants of PNG, an effort that soon spread to include the entire world of food plants.
The website says increasing the diversity of food plants available is the simplest solution to a balanced diet. What one plant lacks; another will provide. Maintaining a diversity of food plants enhances food security. If some plants are affected by adverse weather and environmental conditions, others will still be there to provide food. The people who make up FPI are based in Tasmania, Australia. Are all volunteers who wish to make a difference to the three billion people of the world whose most important concern each day is having enough nutritious food to eat. They can be contact if anyone has any information to contribute.
Posted 2:01 PM by Tevita
Disease Threatens African Banana Industry - PART 2 of 5
From : VOA News
By Darren Taylor
19 January 2009
Experts concerned with Africa's banana sector are trying to increase production of the crop that currently feeds about 100 million people in sub-Saharan Africa. But their efforts are threatened by diseases that result in banana farmers across the continent losing half their yields – and sometimes even more. Scientists warn that this could soon lead to more severe food shortages in some parts of Africa. For many on the continent, the green boiling banana is a staple food, and they depend on it to save them from hunger.
Bananas are particularly susceptible to disease, says Dr. Irie Vroh, a molecular geneticist with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture. He explains that this is because bananas grow directly from "mother plants," and not from seeds.
"From the roots of the mother plant grow many small progenies…. They are clones of the mother. So, if the mother is sensitive to a disease, the progenies are also automatically sensitive to that disease," Vroh tells VOA from his office in Ibadan, Nigeria, where he leads his organization's West African banana program. "Disease is one of the main problems affecting banana and plantain…. Diseases and pests are a major problem for these clonally propagated crops."
Thomas Dubois, a Belgian scientist with the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, adds that when farmers take cuttings from banana plants they're unaware are infected with disease, and replant them, or sell or exchange them with fellow growers, they unwittingly spread plant sicknesses. In so doing, he says, their crops are often "wiped out."
In Kampala, Uganda, Dr. Fen Beed studies diseases afflicting African banana crops.
"I try to determine how exactly the disease spreads and how it infects plants, and try to identify interventions based on this," he says.
Beed explains that bananas in Africa, and especially in East Africa, are currently succumbing to a disease that was first diagnosed in Ethiopia in 2001.
Wilt attacks African bananas
Banana growers battle against plant diseases in Africa
Bacterial wilt – scientific name, Xanthomonas – causes banana plants to literally waste away. The leaves of infected plants turn yellow, and ooze yellowish fluid. Bunches of bananas ripen prematurely and rot. Beed says the disease has destroyed up to seventy percent of crops in afflicted areas. As a result, some countries aren't producing enough cooking bananas to feed their populations.
"(Bacterial wilt) has spread right across Uganda, and more recently has spread into Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, Congo and is suspected in Burundi," says Beed.
He says the disease has "devastated" banana production in Uganda, which harvests 10 million tons a year, making it the world's second largest banana producer after India. Analysis of the situation in the East African nation reveals that the disease, if uncontrolled, will result in the loss of almost 60 percent of production in the near future.
The scientific website, Science Development Net, has quoted a Ugandan government official saying bacterial wilt could cost his country up to eight billion dollars in the next five to ten years, with the majority of the population likely to be in danger of hunger.
Experts say no matter what measures are taken by Africa's agricultural sectors against bacterial wilt, the disease is extremely difficult to prevent and control. Beed says the sickness affects banana plants at such a "rapid" rate that by the time farmers become aware that there's something wrong with their crops, it's too late to respond effectively.
Pests continue to attack banana plants in Africa, resulting in massive losses
Certain insects are also carriers of the disease, and most African farmers can't feasibly spray their banana crops with chemicals to protect them against infection by pests. Dubois says because of the "immense" size of banana plants, the crops would require a lot of chemicals, and this proves too expensive for the vast majority of African farmers – even in places where such pesticides are available for sale.
Scientists say plants infected with bacterial wilt can't be cured; the best farmers can do is to take preventive measures to control the disease.
"We advise farmers to uproot infected crops," Beed states, but then continues, "one of the things that was most disappointing was that once we did recommend the removal of infected plants, there wasn't a system in place within the national frameworks of the countries in which we're operating to actually replace this infected material with new, clean material."
Beed says African banana farmers are trying to get clean plants in an effort to resume production. But in most cases, they're too poor to do this.
"And that system wasn't in place to try and combat the losses that they'd suffered. That's actually resulted in some farmers moving away from banana to growing cassava and maize; this is true of central Uganda."
Beed acknowledges, though, that impoverished African farmers are hesitant to destroy their only means of livelihood. Yet even when they've taken this radical step, the negative consequences have mounted.
Banana crops offer great benefits to the environment
"The perennial qualities of the banana enable the soil to be maintained. This prevents erosion and environmental degradation, retains the structure and the water within the soil. So when bananas are removed as a consequence of disease, it's not just damaging to the banana industry, it's damaging to the environment…. It causes erosion," Beed explains.
Scientists are constantly advising that farmers not use implements that they've used on infected plants on other plants, and to sterilize their tools. But Beed says information about preventive measures such as this often doesn't reach farmers, most who live in very isolated areas.
He posits that the wilt "catastrophe" offers evidence that "no system is ever that durable because the pathogens can always adapt, or new pathogens can be introduced. This is particularly apparent when we see that both trade and commerce of agricultural products is increasing all the time, so there's always this risk of a disease coming in (to a country)."
Other diseases set to hit Africa
Beed warns as well that Panama disease, one of the "most notorious" of all plant diseases, is set to strike in Africa in the near future. This sickness has wiped out production in South America of the previously popular "Gros Michel" dessert banana.
Beed says Panama disease is particularly hard to control, as it's constantly mutating and is set to threaten production of the Cavendish dessert banana in Africa.
"The difficulty we're facing now is that there's another race of Panama disease, which is called tropical race four, which is present in Asia and will come to Africa at some point, and this will knock out Cavendish, because the Cavendish doesn't have any resistance to this particular form of the disease," Beed tells VOA.
Diseases are negating the expansion of Africa's banana industry
Dr. Irie Vroh adds that black sigatoka, a leaf spot disease caused by fungus, is also having a "devastating impact" on banana production in sub-Saharan Africa.
Beed also warns as well of the intensification in Africa of banana bunchy top virus that causes the stunting of banana plants.
"It seems to be attacking all types of banana. This is particularly worrying because we're not quite sure why it has started to spread," Beed says.
Scientists say no banana variety is resistant to this virus, with infected plants largely unable to bear fruit.
"We're doing surveys and investigating and analyzing its molecular constitution, to try to determine why it is now becoming more of a problem than it ever was before," says Beed. "We're trying to determine what the main parameters are encouraging the spread of this… such as climate, location and so on. If we can do that, then we'll better be able to identify control interventions."
Tissue culture solution
Dubois says a potential long-term answer to the disease danger facing Africa can be found in the laboratories of international agricultural research organizations.
International scientists are trying to help farmers in Africa to protect their crops against plant diseases
"What farmers nowadays can do – and what is being done all over the world except in Africa – is something called tissue culture. This is a technique by which you produce small little plants in a laboratory, in a sterile condition (and in so doing) you make clean planting material," he explains. "You get rid of the pests and diseases that normally associate with banana plants before you plant them in the field. This is also a very quick way to very rapidly multiply lots and lots of bananas."
Dubois says bananas also grow much faster through the use of tissue culture.
"It gives farmers the chance to get more income, to market the products they get as a result of those tissue cultures," he enthuses.
Dubois, though, acknowledges that plants raised from tissue cultures are a "bit fragile" and require further scientific modification to enable them to survive under harsh African conditions.
"To put them in fields that are burdened by pests and diseases and that are suffering from bad management in Africa, these plants need something extra. So I put microbes in those plants, to bolster them and make them into a kind of super-plants, to stimulate their immune system," he says.
But Dubois and other scientists agree that such technological advancements are presently beyond the reach of the majority of African banana producers, who in the near future are set to continue to suffer the wrath of diseases.
Posted 1:29 PM by Tevita
Unique, giant coconut shell-made products
From : Vietnam Net Bridge
Three craftsmen from the southern province of Ben Tre, or the kingdom of coconuts, used 25,000 coconut-shell buttons to make a huge tea pot, which was recognised as a national record at the first ever Coconut Festival in Ben Tre.
The record tea pot.
The record tea pot looks like a traditional tea pot of Vietnamese people. It is 3m high and 150kg in weight. Craftsmen created the tea pot in 45 days.
Some other special things were introduced at the festival: the largest coconut candy in Vietnam, which is 1.6m long, 600 kg; the longest carpet made of coconut fibre – 12m; an astray and glass set made of a 70-year-old coconut tree; and a pair of buffaloes made of coconut fibre. The buffaloes are 2.2m long, 1.2m high, 40kg in weight and 0.65m around the belly in diameter.
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