Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Managing mandarins in Bhutan

To a foreign visitor on a sunny day in springtime, a mandarin farm in Bhutan’s mountains looks pretty close to heaven. The loudest sound is birdsong, and the only man-made noises are the chime of turning prayer wheels and the quiet snapping of hundreds of prayer flags, flapping in the breeze. However, this is no easy life. “Maintaining the farm was just too hard for me by myself,” recalls Mrs Mackum, a citrus farmer in Dagana district; “three years ago, I was ready to give up”.

Close to heaven, Mrs Mackum's citrus farm. [Source: Richard Markham, ACIAR]

Monday, 20 April 2015

Australian support for agroforestry development in Viet Nam

The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research is working with ICRAF to test new agroforestry systems in Northwest Viet Nam, explains Nguyen Thi Thanh An.

The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) has a mission to bring Australian scientists to Viet Nam and engage in collaborative research to help smallholder farmers.

‘We focus on the Northwest, South-central Coast and part of the Mekong Delta’, said Ms Nguyen Thi Thanh An, ACIAR’s Country Manager for Viet Nam.

Vietnam. Source: Google Maps

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Queensland data capture technology scoring well in Ethiopia

Researchers at the Ethiopian Institute for Agricultural Research (EIAR) are taking on the latest technologies in plant breeding including electronic data capture using Android devices (mobile phones and tablets). The technology is being used as part of a project jointly funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and ACIAR to improve their sorghum breeding program.

Every year plant breeders and plant scientists record tens of thousands of pieces of information (called datapoints) about the lines in their breeding and research trials. The datapoints correspond to measurements regularly taken on the growing plants for example plant height, date of flowering, disease symptoms, grain yield etc. Traditionally this collection of data has been recorded by hand on hard copy field books with the information being then manually entered into computers at a later stage. Both the initial data recording in the books and the subsequent transcription on computers are labour intensive and subject to human error. The need to manually enter the data into computers also delayed data analysis, and the actions taken as a result of the analysis, by several months. 

Mr Michael Hassall, a programmer from Q-DAF, training the Ethiopian sorghum researchers in data management at the EIAR research station. Photo: Q-DAF

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

John Dillon visits Wiradjuri Preschool to share Maria books

While recently visiting Australia, Ms Freda Wantum, ACIAR John Dillon Fellow from Papua New Guinea and Canberra’s own Dr Barbara Pamphilon, project leader of the ‘liklik bisnis thinking’ women’s project in PNG visited the Wiradjuri Preschool Centre at the University of Canberra.

The visit was just one of the many activities that took place as part of the John Dillon fellowship tour of Canberra in March and was a chance to share the ‘Maria’s Family’ book series with a group of Australian kids.

Freda reading to the pre-school students. Source: Andy Heaney