By Seniorl Anzu
Pest and disease continue to pose major challenges on rural farmers of PNG who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. One of the crops that are vulnerable to pest and disease impacts is sweet potato, the country’s mainstay of food security. Sweet potato accounts for over 60 per cent of the dietary energy of PNG’s seven million people.
In a bid to reduce the impact of pest and disease, a collaborative project, funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, had focused on developing and testing pest and disease control strategies.
The project, undertaken at Aiyura in the Eastern Highlands, also aimed at increasing the dissemination and adoption of pathogen tested (PT) materials as part of an integrated pest management strategy for pest and disease control.
A PT scheme was established in PNG in 2008 to improve sweet potato yield and quality by removing virus and virus-like organisms. Common diseases the materials were tested against were scab and scurf and other viral diseases while the pests included gall mites and weevils.
Dorcas Homare, a young scientist who had been involved in the project, recently said pest and disease “thrive in the plant from generation to generation and silently contribute to yield decline, a problem which could be overcome by the use of the PT materials”.
Last year, trials were conducted in farmers’ fields through a participatory approach. Dorcas said farmers were able to notice yield differences from comparative trials between PT materials and non-PT materials.
The project was undertaken by PNG’s National Agricultural Research Institute and the Fresh Produce Development Agency in collaboration with the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, Australia. Farmers that benefited from the innovation were mostly from the Western and Eastern Highlands provinces.