Friday, 28 November 2014

Battling Panama disease in Philippines' bananas

Every few years, it seems, a scare goes around threatening the end of the global commercial banana industry—and usually the focus of the scare-stories is Panama disease, caused by the fungus ‘Foc’ (short for Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense).

The variety that made banana the ‘world’s favourite fruit’ was Gros Michel, but it was knocked out as a commercial crop in the 1950s and 1960s by Panama disease, specifically a form that we now call ‘Foc Race 1’. The banana that took its place was Cavendish, a variety found to be resistant to that form of Panama disease and subsequently distributed around the world. It currently dominates the global trade in bananas. But now the Cavendish banana has met its nemesis in the form of Tropical Race 4 of Panama disease—Foc-TR4. The new form of the disease has just about wiped out commercial Cavendish production in Malaysia and Indonesia (despite the best efforts of ACIAR’s previous Panama disease project in Indonesia), and this year there have been outbreaks, for the first time, in Africa and the Middle East.

A banana plantation devastated by Panama disease (Tropical Race 4). Photo: Richard Markham/ACIAR

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Animation: a new approach to communication for development

A new approach to communication for development will help low-literate farmers adopt improved agronomic practices in Timor-Leste.

Farmers who adopt new maize varieties developed by the Seeds of Life (SoL) program and Ministry of Agriculture (MAF) can expect significant yield increases if they use traditional cultivation methods. If they also apply appropriate agronomic practices (such as planting in lines, weeding, drying and storing seed in airtight containers etc.), even higher yield increases are achievable. But how do you teach these practices to farmers?

Farmers at a maize field day: a traditional form of communication for development

Friday, 7 November 2014

Vanuatu Chocolate - it's all in the smell

Judges son and father, Josh and Mark Bahen, cocoa grower Denis Nambith and cocoa buyer Basille Malily enjoy
 chocolate over the water in Port Vila at the end of the competition. Photographer: Conor Ashleigh
First Annual Vanuatu Chocolate Competition Salon Culinaire 2014
The joy that is chocolate, the desire to source flavoursome cocoa beans, and the opportunity to improve livelihoods for Vanuatu cocoa growers – could these ingredients be a recipe for success?