Monday, 2 December 2013

Terrific tomatoes, perfect peppers - Detective guide for better vegies

Australian and Cambodian farmers and gardeners now have a great new tool for growing healthy tomatoes, capsicums, chillies and eggplants, thanks to a new field guide. The guide is likely to be useful to many smallholder farmers in other countries as well. Co-author Dr Sandra McDougall explains how the guide came about...

Cambodian vegetable growers in western Sydney, Australia are a committed group of growers, producing food for their families and local markets. As with many new migrant market gardeners, they have helped each other set up their farms, are located in a small area, and are mostly growing similar crops: cherry tomatoes, chillies, capsicums and eggplants, as well as snow peas.  

Cherry tomatoes (Photo: S. McDougall)

Bilingual resource
When we started working with the Cambodian Growers Association in Sydney, they told us a bilingual field guide for tomatoes would be the most helpful resource we could provide. They wanted information on basic crop production, as well as a guide to identifying and managing problems caused by insects, diseases or other disorders. They preferred printed fact sheets over multimedia or internet resources, which surprised us a little!

The Cambodian Growers Association executive (above) were consulted to
see what they needed most (Photo: S. MacDougall)
We broadened the scope to include chilli, capsicum and eggplant, as the Cambodian growers were also growing these crops. We decided to include organisms found in Cambodia, since the Cambodian side of this project was also working on tomato, chilli and capsicum (‘peppers’), and no field guides were available. Our team included plant pathologists, entomologists and agronomists with Cambodian and/or Australian experience.

man holding chart showing different tomato colours
Education is a strong focus of this project - here a
Cambodian farmer shows a tomato ripening chart
(Photo: S. Newman)
Overcoming mutual challenges
Once we started putting the list of organisms together, it became clear that there was a lot of overlap. It turns out that growers here and in Cambodia face many of the same challenges. Three years down the road, the guide has now been published in English, and it will soon be translated into Khmer. I'm really pleased with how it has turned out.

The guide is full of colourful photos to help growers identify what is wrong with their plants, and advice on how to fix the problems. It illustrates insects that are pests that need controlling, and others that are actually beneficial to the plants. It includes a handy colour-coded sidebar to help navigate through all the information.

It should be really useful to a lot of vegetable growers, helping them identify and manage key insect pests and diseases and other disorders.

Broader benefits
I am now working in the Philippines, where these same crops are extremely important, so I know it will be very helpful there. The project team are assessing whether we need to include a couple of other diseases, and we plan to translate the information into Visayan and probably Tagalog as well. Our collaborators in the World Vegetable Center (AVRDC) have mentioned it will also be useful for their work in Africa.

There’s general agreement that the field guide is a much needed resource. It should help many smallholder farmers and gardeners to produce high-quality and nutritious vegetables.

By Dr Sandra McDougall, NSW Department of Primary Industries
Leader of the Australian research component and guide co-author

More information
Tomato, capsicum, chilli and eggplant. A field guide for the identification of insect pests,beneficials, diseases and disorders in Australia and Cambodia

ACIAR projects:
HORT/2006/107 Strengthening the Cambodian and Australian vegetable industries through adoption of improved production and postharvest practices
The project is led by NSW Department of Primary Industries. Project partners are:
Charles Sturt University, Australia
The World Vegetable Center, Taiwan
Cambodia Agricultural Research and Development Institute, Cambodia
General Directorate of Agriculture, Cambodia
Royal University of Agriculture, Cambodia
Applied Horticultural Research, Australia

Previous project HORT/2003/045 final report Improvement of vegetable production and postharvest practices in Cambodia and Australia

Related project with AVRDC in Africa: Improving income and nutrition in eastern and southern Africa by enhancing vegetable-based farming and food systems in peri-urban corridors

1 comment:

Thanks for taking the time to comment!

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.