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close this bookSPORE Bulletin of the CTA No. 55 (CTA Spore, 1995, 16 p.)
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Potatoes promote sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes, because they are labour intensive and difficult to process after harvesting, have declined in popularity. However, intercropping them with ordinary (Irish) potatoes helps to reduce labour costs.

Since the International Potato Centre (CIP) took over the responsibility for developing sweet potatoes within the CGIAR, there has been a concerted effort to encourage more farmers to grow the crop again. New varieties have been developed that yield more, have higher dry matter and store better.

The Southeast Asian Programme for Potato Research and Development (SAPPRAD) is involving farmers more closely in the selection of new varieties by getting new material onto farms within a year or two, instead of waiting five or six years before the varieties are proven. This closer involvement of farmers is also helping SAPPRAD to get new growing methods adopted.

One system involves intercropping potatoes with sweet potatoes. The potato crop is planted and ridged up; 30 days later sweet potatoes are planted in the furrows. The potatoes are harvested after about 70 days. This operation also ridges up the sweet potatoes. The sweet potato foliage is advantageous to the potatoes because it shades the soil, keeping it about 2°C cooler. The sweet potatoes also benefit from residual fertilizer.

SAPPRAD estimate the cost of growing sweet potatoes in this way is about one US cent per kilogram


African research centre to help beekeepers

Until now, African beekeeping has received very little help from researchers in Africa. That will change, as the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) in Kenya adds apiculture to its research agenda.

Dr Hans Herren, who was head of the Biological Control Programme of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Benin, has recently taken over as Director of ICIPE. He sees the Centre concentrating on pests that attack humans, like mosquitoes and sandflies, those that attack livestock like tsetse and ticks, and those that attack crops like locusts and grasshoppers. Research on the crop pests that are already covered by research institutes in the CGIAR system may be discontinued.

Dr Herren wants to help develop small-scale activities that will create more income for the smallholder: these will include beekeeping and sericulture. Research will begin on the best type of bees for honey production in Africa and on the diseases that infect them. Studies will be made of the most suitable trees and crops for honey production and on the post-harvest treatment of honey.

The Centre is also to look at sericulture as another income generating activity for farming families. However, indigenous silk moths are disappearing through habitat destruction and ways of reversing this trend have to be looked into. Dr Herren also wants to integrate sericulture (as well as beekeeping) into agroforestry farming systems.

Dr H Herrer
PO Box 30772

Useful publications

The Uganda journal of agricultural sciences was established by the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) to serve as an avenue to report research findings of scientists working in the various fields of agriculture. It publishes original research work in the fields of crop science and production; animal health; soil science; forestry; fisheries; agricultural economics and extension agricultural engineering, food science and technology; and environmental protection. The journal also publishes as 'short communications and research reports' original results that do not warrant publication as full papers. the journal is published twice a year.

Uganda journal of agricultural sciences, national Agricultural Research Organization, PO Box 295, Entebbe, UGANDA

Natural resource perspectives is a new series of individually authored papers drawing on the Overseas DeveIopment Institute's work on policy and organizational issues in natural resources management. Approximately five papers will be produced per year, on an occasional basis. The new series aims to illuminate areas of debate in natural resources management and make evidence an] arguments accessible in summary form to those concerned with the design and implementation of policy who would not normally have time to review long documents.

John Farrington, Editor, Natural resources perspectives, ODI, Regent's College, Inner Circle, Regent's Park, London NW1 4NS

Nitrogen fixation for cereals

Rhizobial bacteria living in nodules on the roots of leguminous plants such as peas and beans fix nitrogen from the air and make some of it available to the host plant. Plant breeders have long wanted to be able to transfer this trait to cereals, such as wheat and rice, but until recently, this remained only a remote possibility. However, the possibility may soon become a reality as researchers have brought together rhizobia and cereals that are compatible.

In 1991 British, Australian, Chinese and Mexican scientists formed the International Rice Nodulation Group which was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and the UK's Overseas Development Administration (ODA). The task was to make rice behave like the legumes and 'fix' its own nitrogen. The group began by looking at all the strains of rhizobia world-wide.

The strain that caught their attention was the rhizobium associated with the tropical legumes of the genus Sesbania. These plants have nitrogen fixing nodules on their stems, as well as on their roots. The rhizobia enter Sesbania plants by what is termed 'crack entry'. When lateral roots emerge, the rhizobia gain access through the crack in the root skin and, because they are invasive and tolerant of oxygen, they can penetrate further into the root and become established. The root then thickens and turns into a nodule.

Research by Professor Ted Cocking at Nottingham University has shown that these rhizobia use 'crack entry' to invade the roots of rice, wheat, maize and oilseed rape and, once in, they form a symbiotic association. Tests in the laboratory have shown that the rhizobia will fix as much nitrogen in rice and wheat roots as they do in Sesbania.

The next test will be to see how this symbiotic association works under field conditions. The first field trials will be with wheat in Egypt at the beginning of 1995, followed by trials with rice in India and maize in Mexico.

The bonus is that there is no genetic engineering or new technology involved. All that will be required is for cereal seed to put with, or inoculated with, the appropriate rhizobia. Inoculation of legume seed with the right rhizobia is well known, so transferring it to cereals will not be difficult. It seems likely that the technology will be easily transferable to resource poor farmers.

Professor Ted Cocking Department of Life Science Nottingham University Nottingham NG7 2RD- UK

Soya protein enriched gari

Most rural areas in developing countries these days are subjected to increasing population densities. The extra food requirement strains still further the already depleted fertility of the soil. As incomes fall demand for cheap staples rises. More and more farmers are cultivating cassava in increasing quantities because it can grow even under harsh agronomic conditions. However, on its own cassava flour provides little or no protein; it needs to be enriched by the addition of some protein source.

In Cameroon, trials conducted at the Rural Training Centre, Mfonta, have succeeded in creating a recipe integrating soyabean-flour into gari and make-banana, whilst still maintaining the original taste.

To prepare the improved gari 10kg of grated cassava is mixed with 1 to 1.2ka of fine soyabean flour. First the soyaflour is mixed with 2,5 litres of water and a teaspoon of palm-oil, brought slowly to the boil and simmered for about 10 minutes (care should be taken to avoid burning). The thick mixture should then be covered and cooled to hand heat, after which the grated cassava can be added. Six tablespoons of palm oil can also be added to give it a good colour. This mixture should then be allowed to ferment for between 12-24 hours, after which it can be cooked according to choice. The enriched Mfonta-Gari contains 8-10% protein.

Hans Schar
Presby. Rural Training Centre Mfonta
PO Box 72
Bamenda - N W Province

New mite threatens beekeeping

A tiny mite, called Tropilaelaps, is threatening bee colonies on the island of Irian Jaya and in Papua New Guinea. The only way to rid the island of the pest is to eradicate all bee colonies. This drastic action is being recommended by entomologists from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

Tropilaelaps clareae was first identified in 1961. It has spread from the island of Java where it infested the European honey bee (Apis mellifera) to Irian Jaya in the early 1980's. Now it is gradually spreading eastwards into Papua New Guinea in feral colonies of the European bee altrough, as yet, it has not reached the primary beekeeping areas. For the moment the Asian bee (Apis cerana) remains free of infestation.

The CSIRO entomologists have been studying the pest for the last four years and have found it to be very destructive to the European honey bee. In Irian Jaya and Papua New Guinea it does not appear to have an alternative host. This means that all the feral colonies of the European honey bee will be killed by the mite in time. Entomologists argue that the most effective strategy to rid the islands of the pest is to destroy all the European honey bee colonies and then after a period of two years new, clean colonies can be introduced to restock.

Division of Entomology

Connecting libraries through e-mail

E-mail is a means by which information can be exchanged between computers. Using a personal computer, a modem and a telephone, data is sent in a form that is ready to use with the receiving computer for as little as one-tenth the cost of fax or telex. E-mail can be used to link libraries which are part of the same electronic mail network. In Nairobi, for instance, the Kengele Network connects users on the African Regional Office for Standardization (ARSO) and the Environmental Liaison Centre International (ELCI) 'store and forward' nodes.

Libraries can use e-mail to send inter-library search requests to a list of participating libraries who are 'on line'. This is done by creating a cc: list and referencing it in a message. Copies of the request are automatically generated to listed users. Since they are all local users, no additional charges are incurred in addition to the normal monthly subscription which is currently US$10.

If a node offers a 'mail in/mail out' service, libraries without e-mail facilities can also participate by sending a letter to the node or using the 'drop in centre' at the node office to prepare a request message. Responses received electronically will be printed out and sent by ordinary mail. The service is operated on a cost recovery basis at US$1.00 for each batch of sent/received messages. Currently this service is being offered by the ARSO node.

Because electronic mail can be used to send and receive messages and data to or from distant colleagues in a computer ready form, it is an ideal way of exchanging information and undertaking collaborative research world-wide.

Dwyer Rigby Associates
PO Box 72461

Potential for palmwood

Coconut palms are widely distributed in the tropics. At the beginning of the 19th century large plantations for the production of copra were established in the Pacific rim, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, parts of Africa and the Caribbean. On a world-wide scale these plantations account for approximately 10 million hectares. However, the palmwood itself is little used.

Currently, as coconut plantations are renewed the old cleared palm trees are often left to rot where they lie, providing teeming breeding grounds for insects, especially the rhinoceros beetle, a virulent enemy of the coconut palm. To curb this destruction the trunks must be removed from the field to be buried or burned, which is a costly, labour intensive process which is rarely, if ever, carried out effectively.

Palmwood has a decorative structure and the wood's properties allow the manufacture of a variety of products. Furniture made from palmwood can be extremely attractive, particularly when combined with lighter shades of wood or other materials such as rattan, leather, glass or stone.

Protrade, the trade division of the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) has a section that deals with furniture and wood products. They have instigated a campaign to promote and support the utilization of coconut-palmwood. Protrade publishes a quarterly newsletter Palmwood News, which promotes palmwood products through articles in technical and trade journals and the exhibition of products in fairs throughout Europe. It also establishes contacts between producers overseas and consumers/importers within Europe. At the Cologne Furniture Exhibition in January 1994 six companies from four countries (Indonesia, the Philippines, Tanzania and Fiji) displayed their products and were surprised by the interest and enthusiasm their products created among the visitors.

Peter Bolster
PO Box 5180
D-65726 Eschbom

A map of coconut and palm oil production

World consumption of oils and fats was 84 million tonnes in the early 1990s and estimated to rise to 118 million tonnes between 2003 and 2007. Productivity per hectare of perennial oil crops is higher than that of annual oil crops, and already coconut and oil palm provide more than 20% of world requirements for oils and fats.

The Bureau for the development and research on tropical perennial oil crops (BuroTrop), an organization created at the initiative of the European Commission to strengthen and enhance the coordination of research and development activities in coconut and oil palm has produced a poster map showing the distribution, production and consumption of coconut and palm oil worldwide. The map is in large format, the scale being 1: 40,000,000 with symbols clearly defining areas of production and tonnages produced.

17 rue de la Tour
75116 Paris

Pest outbreaks in Pacific Islands

"No man is an island, entire unto itself," wrote John Donne, a seventeenth century poet meaning that people could not hold themselves isolated from events happening around them. It was perhaps possible in his day for islands to exist as places of isolation. But in these days of modern, fast communication that is no longer possible and islanders find themselves invaded by visitors that are not always welcome.

Two localities in the South Pacific are reporting such invasions. Nanumaga Island in Tuvalu has reported a pest causing damage to breadfruit, banana, coconut and ornamental plants in June of this year. Damage to affected plants was extensive and spread quickly from village to village. A CSIRO entomologist resident in Kiribati, Dr Sandhu, has identified the pest as a type of scale insect, Aspidiotus destructor. He thinks that over a period of time, perhaps more than a hundred years, the pest has made its way from the Philippines. He recommends the use of biological control using Crytognathus nodicefs and Chilocorus nigrita which are coccirellid beetles which feed only on the scale insect.

Washington Island in the Republic of Kiribati is also suffering a pest invasion. Coconut is the dominant vegetation covering nearly 80% of the land area, with copra the main cash crop. Earlier in the year a consignment of copra from Washington Island was found to have white grubs and brownish beetles in conspicuous tunnels in the inside nut shell, while the outside had circular holes. Dr Sandhu has tentatively identified the beetle as the lesser grain borer (Rhyzopertha dominica). There has been no record of this pest on Washington Island or Kiribati before.

Both these examples highlight the importance of ensuring that quarantine regulations are carried out effectively. IRETA offers a free service (sponsored by CTA) which provides agriculturists working in ACP countries with photocopies of literature on the subject of quarantine in the region.

USP Alafua Campus
Private Bag

The coconut palm: botany and breeding

The coconut palm is essentially a crop of the small farmer and is mainly grown in developing countries, where coconut products are important sources of export earnings and contribute significantly to national economies. Research work on such a valuable oil crop which is ranked equally as a food crop, has been rather slow due to certain peculiarities of the crop which limit its potential for improvement. The long generation time of the palm, the height to which it grows, its heterogeneous nature, the difficulties in its clonal propagation, the long period of experimentation necessary to obtain results, and the large area required for field trials are some of the factors responsible for the slow progress in coconut breeding work.

Governments of the coconut growing countries have begun to evince a keen interest in improvement of the coconut palm by breeding and selection. The results of research work done on the botanical and breeding aspects of the palm are not available in a single publication for those interested in coconut breeding work. This book reviews the work that has been carried out on coconut breeding and is the most up-to-date publication available on the topic.

The Coconut palm: botany and breeding by K Satyabalan 1993 214pp The Asian and Pacific Coconut Community, PO Box 1342 Jakana 10013, INDONESIA

New degree courses

The Natural Resources Institute (NRI) has conducted annual training courses entitled Storage of durable agricultural products in the tropics. These courses have trained 371 students from 61 countries who, on completion, were awarded the NRI certificate.

In June 1994 the course was validated by the University of Greenwich as a postgraduate Diploma in Grain Storage Management in its own right and as a pre-qualifier for an NRI supervised programme leading to an MSc in Grain Storage Management.

David Walker Course Director NRI, Central Avenue. Chatham Maritime, Kent ME4 4TB, UK

The University of East Anglia's School of Development Studies (DEV) has joined together with two other institutes - Biological Sciences (BIO) and the John Innes Centre of Plant Science Research (JIC) to bring together expertise to offer a MSc in Plant Breeding for Agricultural Development. The programme comprises biology and biotechnology courses run by BIO; farming systems and experimentation courses run by DEV, and a specialist plant breeding module run by the JIC.

Dr Stephen Morse, School of Development Studies, University of East Anglia Norwich NR4 7TJ UK

Courses and conferences

MICRO-HYDRO POWER 3 - 23 September, 1995 Cebu City, Cebu, PHILIPPINES A course for rural development planners, engineers and technicians. Topics include socio-economic issues, survey techniques, feasibility studies, scheme design, financing, subsidy policy, credit, local manufacture of components, operation and maintenance of schemes between 0.3kW and 300kW.

Adam Harvey Coordinator Micro-Hydro International Course, Intermediate Technology Myson House, Railway Terrace, Rugby CV21 3HT, UK

ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT IN DEVELOPMENT 14 August - 15 September A course for experienced project managers whose work requires integration of environmental issues. The Director, Mananga, PO Box 20, Mhlume, SWAZILAND

RURAL AND LAND ECOLOGY SURVEY FORESTRY FOR RURAL DEVELOPMENT 2 postgraduate diploma courses running from 2nd week of August 1995 for 11 months.

ENVIRONMENTAL SYSTEMS ANALYSIS AND MONITORING RURAL AND LAND ECOLOGY SURVEY 2 MSc degree courses running from 2nd week of August 1995 for 20 months for the first course, 18 months for the second.

SOCIO-ECONOMIC INFORMATION FOR NATURAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT FOREST SURVEY SOIL SURVEY AND APPLICATIONS OF SOIL INFORMATION 3 postgraduate diploma and MSc degree courses running from the second week of August 1995 for 11 months (diploma course) or 18 months (degree course).

All the above courses are offered by the International Institute for Aerospace Survey and Earth Sciences, THE NETHERLANDS.

ITC Student Registration Office, Attn. Ms A Scheggetman, PO Box 6 7500 AA Enschede, THE NETHERLANDS

24 August - 13 September, 1995
3 week course October, 1995

Both courses are offered by the University of Hohenheim and minimum qualifications are university degree or equivalent in agriculture. es The Course Coordinator, Centre for Agricuiture in the Tropics and Subtropics, University of Hohenheim, 70593 Stuttgart, GERMANY

AGRICULTURAL AND FOOD MARKETING (with special focus on Export and Marketing to Europe and N. America) 22 August - 24 September, 1995 A programme oriented to private and public sector managers interested in domestic and export market development.

10 July -15 September, 1995 and 9 October -15 December, 1995 2 ten week courses of practical 'hands on' training for development professionals in computing and information technology.

Details of both courses from:
Mary Arnold, Short Course Officer, Dept. of Agric. Economics, Wye College, Ashford, Kent TN25 5AH, UK

3 - 7 July, 1995 - a week of one-day seminars focusing on key policy issues, which can be attended from one seminar only to the whole series, followed by.

10 - 28 July, 1995 - three weeks of coursework, of more specialist interest.
The Course Coordinator, Oxford Forestry Institute, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3RB, UK

17 August -15 September, 1995
A practical programme enabling development professionals to improve their managerial capabilities. The course focuses on the role of information in management decision-making.
Short Course Coordinator; AERRD, University of Reading, 3Earley Gate, Whiteknights Road, Reading RG6 2AL, UK

A seminar to be held from 3 - 14 July, 1995 at Writtle College, Chelmsford, UK.
The seminar is designed to present the latest information on horticultural crop production and marketing trends in Europe.
International Seminars Department, The British Council, 10 Spring Gardens, London SW1A 2BN, UK

An international conference to be held from 17 - 20 September, 1995 at Wye College, University of London.
Emphasis is given to temperate and tropical systems and both natural ecosystems and agriculture.
Georg Cadish and Ken Giller, Dept. of Biological Sciences, Wye College, Ashford, Kent TN25 5AH, UK

To be held from 23 - 26 August, 1995 at Cardiff, Wales, UK.
The workshop will set the agenda for the future development of Bio-NET INTERNATIONAL, an organization concerned with improving taxonomic services in developing countries in support of sustainable farming practices and the conservation of biodiversity.
Bio-NET lNTERNATlONAL, Technical Secretariat, Bakeham Lane, Egham, Surrey TW20 9TY, UK