Pests continue to thrive in country
By Matthew Vari
As much of the attention and focus has been on the coffee berry borer (CBB) pest continues, the country still has other diseases and pests in existence that could threaten other major crops in the country.
National Agriculture Quarantine and Inspection Authority senior entomologist and acting chief plan protection officer, David Tenakanai, gave an update when asked on the status of the threats.
He said coconuts are still at threat from two sources in an insect and a phytoplasmic organism.
“With regards to coconut we have the Bogia coconut syndrome (phytoplasmas virus) still in Madang and slowly spreading outside of the province.
“We had a native one (Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle- Pacific biotype), but we have a new one which is called the Guam biotype (CRB-G) which has moved through NCD and across Central Province. In Hula all the way to Gabagaba and is spreading towards Gulf Province.”
“In Bougainville it has spread to Buin. Also in Manus and serious damage has been caused.”
He said along with the ongoing efforts for CBB, serious issues exist with banana, with a phytoplasmas disease, similar to the Bogia coconut syndrome.
Current legislative containments to a citrus disease have maintained the Asian originated called in Chinese, huánglóngbìng, literally ‘yellow dragon disease, with cocoa pod borer manageable.
“There are ongoing problems we have with citrus in Vanimo. This disease is caused by a vector-transmitted pathogen where citrus is dying so we have a legislation since 2002 that stops the movement of citrus and its planting material from Vanimo to other parts of Papua New Guinea.”
“It came through the border and is still there. It is a bacteria that goes into plants, suffocates them and kill them.”
“Cocoa pod borer is manageable, it’s widespread but it is manageable.”
Current efforts with ‘potato leaf blight’ are manageable currently with the leadership of the National Agriculture Research Institute and Fresh Produce Development Agency, however, the emergence of a foreign weevil could prove a problem.
“We have currently a weevil called ‘West Indian potato’. It came in through some exports and it is now widespread. It is a post harvest pest of sweet potato and it is now spreading from the Highlands to the Coast through trade.
“So we are working on those diseases and pest and are working on strategies and conducting awareness and assisting people on how to manage them based on collaborations with NARI, FPDA, and the industry like coconut and oil palm industry,” Mr Tenakanai said.
Serious threat on bananas in Papua New Guinea
BY MATTHEW VARI
BANANAS in the country are facing a real threat from what is called the ‘banana wilt associated phytoplasma’ disease. Acting Chief plant protection officer, David Tenakanai, said the much loved and consumed local staple is facing a real threat as the virus bacteria is spreading around the country. Similar to the Bogia coconut syndrome currently in Madang Province, Mr Tenakanai said phytoplasma is an organism classed between a virus and bacteria. It is spread by insects via banana suckers and coconut seedlings.
“The disease is currently affecting bananas like ‘kalapua’ and ‘tukuru’, and Daru banana. We have noticed the problem in Sandaun Province, but it has now spread to Madang, towards Lae and we found patches of it in Milne Bay and Western Province.
“The concern we have now, is that it is spreading through the banana suckers. This occurs when people are moving the suckers around,” Mr Tenakanai said.
Asked what symptoms citizens could look out for in their patches, Mr Tenakanai said visible symptoms can be identified on the leaves and fruit. “We are looking at yellowing of the banana leaves and the bananas when they produce fruit bunches that do not develop into bananas. “The dropping of the leaves leads to the entire plant dying. When people see this they must not move the banana suckers.”
He said along with the current concern with the ‘banana wilt associated phytoplasma’ is another banana related problem across the border in Indonesia’s Papua Province and in Queensland, Australia. “There is a panama disease, also known as fusarium wilt of banana, that is killing bananas in Queensland Tali and in Papua province.” “We do not want this banana disease coming in, it would be very serious because it affects cultivars (very soft banana variety) and other soft banana.”
Panama disease is one of the most notorious of all plant diseases that attacks the roots of banana plants. It is caused by the fungal pathogen that is resistant to fungicide and cannot be controlled chemically.
Help sought in bid to fight palm oil pest
New Britain Palm Oil Ltd, the country’s largest private sector employer, is seeking a public-private partnership with the Government to fight a pest that is threatening the cocoa, copra and oil palm industries.
In a media conference in Port Moresby yesterday, following a meeting between senior management teams from New Britain Palm Oil Ltd (NBPOL), the Ministry and the Department of Agriculture and Livestock and the National Agriculture Quarantine Inspection Authority (Naqia), Agriculture Minister Benny Allan said a submission would be made to the Cabinet to address this serious threat to the country’s cocoa, copra and the oil palm industries.
“Oil palm industry is the largest export earner in PNG in the agriculture sector and anything affecting this industry needs serious and immediate attention from both the Government as well as the industry players,” Allan said.
He said the coconut beetle (Guam biotype beetle) found in the Solomon Islands was already in parts of Central province. He added that the beetle also affected oil palm and government and industry were very concerned now.
“It’s a serious concern right now but we are very grateful that for the first time, a private sector entity, New Britain Palm Oil Ltd, is now coming on board to partner with the Government to address the issue,” Allan said.
NBPOL country manager Robert Nilkare said the company has all the research facilities and the expertise needed to conduct research and fight the disease and was proposing a 50-50 partnership arrangement with the Government to control and get rid of the beetle.