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WorldVeg and partners fight pests and diseases in the Pacific

WorldVeg Postdoc in Plant Pathology Marti Pottorff from WorldVeg East and Southeast Asia/Oceania and Project Coordinator Ellen Iramu from the Solomon Islands recently visited Fiji for discussions and training under the auspices of the project “Strengthening Integrated Crop Management (ICM) Research in the Pacific Islands in Support of Sustainable Intensification of High-Value Crop Production.”  

Partners from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Fiji Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) met with Marti, Ellen and Mani Mua (partner scientist from SPC) to evaluate the progress of the project and to plan for a second phase.  Jan Helsen, Director of SPC Land and Resources Division (LRD) and WorldVeg alumnus, recognized the opportunity for future collaboration to adapt to climate change through improved varieties and cropping systems and to increase the availability and consumption of diverse and nutritious vegetable across the Pacific.

The invigoration of Fiji’s vegetable value chains has been supported by the screening and release of improved WorldVeg tomato and sweet pepper varieties, selection of seedling potting mixes, application of phosphoric acid to reduce tomato foliar diseases, protected cultivation, and use of disease- and flood-tolerant eggplant rootstocks to prolong tomato production during the rainy season. A series of on-station and field trials plus targeted disease surveys and diagnoses at WorldVeg headquarters in Taiwan identified the most prevalent and damaging pests and pathogens and determined the influence of crop variety and environment.

SPC, WorldVeg and MOA discussions focused on chili anthracnose, a devastating fungal disease that affects chili pepper production, quality and export trade opportunities.  MOA is responding to requests from farmers and traders to manage an epidemic of chili anthracnose on the commercial variety ‘Red Fire’.  WorldVeg is addressing this concern by characterizing which species of Colletotrichum spp.—the causal agent of anthracnose—is responsible by collecting representative diseased plant samples from different survey sites for molecular characterization in collaboration with Paul Taylor of the University of Melbourne. This is necessary as the first step towards deploying appropriate control interventions, including breeding resistant varieties.

WorldVeg has been working on the improvement of resistance against anthracnose in chili peppers by transferring resistance from Capsicum chinense to C. annuum, screening chili varieties for resistance in anthracnose “hotspots” such as India, Indonesia, Korea, Thailand and Taiwan, and through genome association mapping to identify molecular markers linked with anthracnose resistance in C. baccatum for use in related species. Marti enhanced the capacity of partners on how to culture and isolate the fungus from anthracnose-infected fruits and to produce pure cultures and inoculum to be used to test for resistance in improved chili lines.

The ICM project is funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and led by Mike Furlong of the University of Queensland, whose research focuses on the biological control and integrated management of insect pests.

Story and photos: Anna Marie Bahala, Marti Potorff, Ellen Iramu, Fenton Beed


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(left to right) Mani Mua, Plant Health Field Coordinator, SPC; Livia Vakatikati, Pathology Technical officer, MOA; Dr. Apaitia Macanawai, Director of Research Division, MOA; Dr. Marti Pottorff, Plant Pathologist, WorldVeg); Shalendra Prasad, Principal Research Officer Horticulture, MOA; Dr. Ellen Iramu, Horticulturist, World Veg; Toloi Vasuidreketi, Plant Pathology head, MOA; Dr. Visoni Timote, Plant Pathologist, SPC; Anare Caucau, Research Officer Fruit fly, MOA.

Anthracnose-infected chili fruits (Capsicum chinense) collected from a farmer’s cooperative, Suva, Fiji.