|Project leader Mike Hughes with the upcoming generation of PNG farmers|
Friendship and collaboration producing win/win research would be how I summarise my recent ACIAR projects that led to the development of the newly published manual ‘Growing healthy sweetpotato: best practices for producing planting material'.
|PNG's first on-farm screenhouse |
for sweetpotato planting material
In PNG, the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) and Fresh Produce Development Agency (FPDA) were and still are keenly interested in improving the sustainability of sweetpotato. Sweetpotato (kaukau) is a major subsistence food, an increasingly important cash crop and very important for food security in PNG. ACIAR was the conduit to link these organisations, enabling Queensland to further refine the PT process and PNG to implement the latest technology in developing their own PT system.
|Discussing course notes with Village Extension Worker, Fred Mori, wife Joyce and family|
For myself, having worked in PNG before, these projects were a chance to revisit a country of happy memories, reaffirm my old networks/friendships with NARI and FPDA staff, and to meet and work with the enthusiastic young upcoming scientists who will lead the country’s future research and development. For the other members of the Australian team it was their first time to PNG, and in some cases their first time to travel out of Australia. The hospitality, friendship and dedication to developing the PT process shown by our partners and PNG farmers had everyone looking forward to returning to ‘the land of the unexpected’.
|Inspecting growth of planting material|
Of particular importance to both PNG and Australian teams was that the learning and experiences gained in developing these PT systems should be made available to others who are interested in understanding or developing PT sweetpotato, both within and outside our countries. We wanted a manual that was small enough to be carried into the laboratory or screen houses, could be opened easily at any page, clearly showed the basics of the procedures discussed and had space for adding notes, new ‘tricks’ or ideas.
|Discussing planting material with Village Extension Worker, Agnes Jonah|
The task then came down to the writing. This is where the friendship, mutual respect and teamwork developed during the project really shone. Some less confident in writing would add dot points and others would expand upon them. Questioning was constant, thought provoking, informative and productive.
We feel this has resulted in a manual that is user friendly and will be of great assistance to technicians and researchers new to PT sweetpotato, a field which will continue to expand in Australia, PNG and wherever quality sweetpotato is grown. I am thrilled with the result.
By Michael Hughes, ACIAR Project Leader
Growing healthy sweetpotato: best practices for producing planting material manual.
The methods in the manual were developed as part of two ACIAR projects: Reducing pest and disease impact on yield in selected Papua New Guinea sweetpotato production systems, and Validating and documenting a strategy for producing virus-free sweetpotato planting material in Papua New Guinea.
See our Fact Sheet on ACIAR’s sweetpotato research.
Read our earlier blog on The importance of sweetpotatoes.