Picturesque Tambul, Western Highlands, on the foothills of the majestic Mt Giluwe, came alive last Saturday when National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) highlands regional centre staged its third annual field day.
|Bags of potatoes at FPDA stall|
An icy-cold typical Tambul downpour also cut short the event and had visitors running for cover.
With the theme ‘Enhancing sustainable farming for rural farmers’, the event provided an opportunity for the people of Tambul and visitors alike to learn about activities undertaken, meet scientific and technical staff, tour the grounds and facilities, and gather information on other activities NARI undertakes throughout the country.
|Broiler feed made from kaukau and cassava|
Tambul MP and Minister for Civil Aviation, Benjamin Poponawa, was disappointed that not many people attended, given that his electorate is the capital of potatoes and fresh vegetables in the country.
|Tambul-Nebilyer MP and Civil Aviation Minister Benjamin Poponawa (right) listening attentively to NARI dought preparedness project team leader Akkinapally Ramakrishna at the field day in Tambul.-|
“There should be more awareness about such activities in future.”
NARI council chairman Dr John Kola urged the local people to be proud that such an important institution was located on their land, and urged them to look after it.
|Grinding kaukau leaves to make pig silage|
“When you look after this place, you are contributing to the development of Papua New Guinea.”
The best news was that NARI had made a major breakthrough in the fight against the dreaded potato late blight (PLB), which just about decimated PNG’s K25 million potato industry in 2003.
It comes with the lucrative liquefied natural gas project just around the corner, and provides an added sense of food security with real fears of another prolonged drought.
NARI, with support from Australian Centre for Integrated Agricultural Research (ACIAR), has developed new PLB-resistant clones, which were showcased at the field day.
|NARI food technologist Isidora Tamita shows prducts made from local vegetables|
The disease – caused by a fungal agent called Pythorthora infastans - remains a major concern for potato farmers in PNG, as it is easily transported by wind under moist and humid conditions, especially so in the highlands where it can rapidly multiply and spread over long distances in short times.
It has, to an extent, been controlled by expensive chemical fungicides and integrated disease management (IDM) systems.
NARI research has identified the behavior and type of PLB present in PNG, identified suitable chemical fungicides for PNG, and identified the PLB-resistant clones.
NARI director-general Dr Raghunath Ghodake told farmers, visitors and council members that these outcomes would help PNG farmers to successfully grow potato again for cash income as well as food security.
|Pigs eating silage made from kaukau leaves|
“These will be released in May at NARI’s agricultural innovations show.
“These can be grown here at Tambul and people throughout PNG will benefit.
“Other stakeholders like Fresh Produce Development Agency (FPDA), will also benefit from our research, and will provide seeds to farmers as well as extension services.”
Apart from the work of NARI and FPDA in getting PNG’s potato industry back on a firm foothold, an exciting independent potato project in Lagaip-Porgera, Enga province – spearheaded by local MP Philip Kikala – was also showcased at the field day.
The project, led by former NARI scientist Humphrey Saese, is aimed at building capacity for high health seeds and sustainable potato production in Lagaip-Porgera and involves construction of three screen houses for producing mini-tubers.
|Fresh Produce Development officer Conrad Anton (right) explains the work of FPDA at the field day|
“That capacity will produce about four tones of mini-tubers.”
Saese said he expected about 50 tonnes of seed production by June this year in Lagaip-Porgera from the work they had already done, including training and extension programmes, as well as introducing PLB-resistant lines to farmers.
|Potato crisps are among several items showcased by NARI|
Representatives from divisions of primary industry in Enga and Western Highlands provinces, Enga Pyrethrum Company, National Development Bank, National Micro-Bank, Correctional Services of Baisu, Porgera Joint Venture, Christian Leaders Training College, Tambul/Nebilyer district administration, Fresh Produce Development Agency, Jiwaka Women’s Association, Highlands Farmers and Piggery Association, MKL Vegetables, Laiagam district project office, farmers, and school children, attended the day.
Field days such as the one staged in Tambul are one of the means that NARI uses to allow stakeholders to come together to share information, exchange views and see for themselves the agricultural technologies and innovations being developed and tested.
|Lagaip-Porgera potato project team leader Humphrey Saese (right) talks to interested farmers|