Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Enga’s potato industry recovers from devastating disease

Former NARI scientist, Humphrey Saese (right), who is leading an exciting new potato project in Lagaip-Porgera, Enga, talking to farmers at the NARI field day in Tambul.-Picture by MALUM NALU
An exciting independent potato project in Lagaip-Porgera, Enga province, is gaining momentum and support.The project, spearheaded by local MP Philip Kikala, was showcased at the recent National Agriculture Research Institute (NARI) field day in Tambul, Western Highlands.
Led by former NARI scientist Humphrey Saese, the project 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.
“We are building three screen houses to take in 12,000 plantlets,” Saese said in Tambul.
“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 potato late blight (PLB)-resistant lines to farmers.
“Potatoes are important to the livelihood - food, social and income - of the people who live in the highlands of PNG and in particular the people of Lagaip-Porgera,” he added.
“This was until a major disease outbreak caused by PLB in 2003, which wiped out the entire farming systems.
“Potatoes can only be grown at present through the use of chemicals to protect the crop which is costly.
“In addition, the availability and access to clean, certified seeds, has been difficult and expensive for the people.
“This project targets to address these issues by developing local capacities that will enable clean seed production and support a wide spread production of potatoes in the district and the province.”
Saese said availability and access to quality seeds was recognised as a major problem limiting potato production in the district.
“For the people of Lagaip-Porgera, developing the local capacity, in particular the screen houses for growing tissue-cultured potatoes, integration of resistant lines and the development of the seed scheme will ensure the long-term sustainability of potato production,” he said.
“The current capacities developed will support a local industry worth over K2 million.
“These will create rural-based employment, and improve the livelihood of the people in the district

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