New crop protection systems set to increase the volume and quality of South Pacific vegetables
Thursday, 22 May 2014 11:59

Fijian and Samoan vegetable farmers keen to increase the volume and quality of their high-value vegetable crops now have access to five specially-designed protective greenhouse structures with improved ventilation thanks to the combined resources of ACIAR/PARDI funded research and considerable local industry and business support.
Workers finish covering a passively ventilated greenhouse structure in Samoa.

The structures have been established as research, demonstration and commercial sites, where farmers and researchers can learn about improved cropping systems to supply high-value vegetables year-round to domestic and potential export markets in the Pacific region.

The new ACIAR-funded PARDI protective cropping project ‘Developing protected cropping systems for production of high-value vegetables in the South Pacific Islands (Fiji and Samoa) and Australia’’, and ACIAR project “Strengthening integrated crop management research in the Pacific Islands in support of sustainable intensification of high-value crop production,” co-funded the structures and are targeting the need for improved crop protection in the region.

Five structures, each covering a ground area of 360 m2, have been assembled in locations with distinct environmental conditions in Fiji (Sigatoka, Koronivia, and Tavua) and Samoa (Nu’u and Tapatapao).

According to PARDI Project Leader, Dr Elio Jovicich from the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), PARDI supply chain analyses and surveys and advice from collaborating farmers pinpointed the highest demand/high-value crops among buyers and consumers.

“These crops: tomato, capsicum and cucumber, will be the subject of the first round of trials,” said Dr Jovicich.

“Local farmers and representatives from several South Pacific research institutions are eager to start trial crops and are excited about the considerable benefits the structures offer.”

The new greenhouse design includes high roofs (up to 4.5 m), roof vents, shade screens and insect-exclusion netting. The greenhouse structures use only passive ventilation for cooling (no electric fans) and can create an improved crop environment with respect to outdoor growing conditions and compared to the low-roof, walk-in tunnel designs.

Walk-in tunnel designs are already used by some farmers and usually have roofs that are less than three metres high, no roof vents, and small open areas for lateral ventilation. Temperatures under these structures frequently reach levels that are higher than optimal for plant growth and fruit setting in vertically trellised crops such as tomatoes, capsicums, and cucumbers.

Project collaborator, Wah Sing Yee (centre) with Secretariat of the Pacific Community staff member, Aloesi Hicks (right) and Dr Elio Jovicich (left) in a meeting at the Marco Polo Exhibition Shop in Fiji to discuss components to be sourced for protective cropping systems.

The purpose of using taller and better ventilated structures, such as the ones designed for the PARDI project, is to demonstrate that crops can be trellised to higher levels, and thus, production can be increased with more harvests throughout the season. This environment is also better for short, leafy vegetable crops. In addition to providing improved growing conditions, the structures are designed to be dissembled when extreme weather conditions, i.e. cyclones, are forecasted.

According to Dr Jovicich, training farmers will also form an important part of the project given the production system is new to the region.

“PARDI and ACIAR will train farmers in new irrigation technologies (e.g. drip), and different plant growing practices (e.g. trellising and pruning). We also aim to manage pest and diseases with low pesticide use and will collaborate with ACIAR to monitor and manage pest and diseases during the trials.”

As well as PARDI/ACIAR funding, several local commercial companies are backing the research. Wah Sing Yee, Director of importers Marco Polo International Ltd, has helped to import the structures and is supporting MOA Fiji to import additional structures and irrigation components. Edwin Tamasese, a farmer and Director of Soil Health Pacific Ltd, has set-up the two structures, and is assisting with the importation of seeds and irrigation components in Samoa. Mr Tamasese and Mr. Munsami Naiker, farmer and Director of All Season Nursery in Tavua, will assist with the production of seedlings for the trials.

For more information:

PARDI communications
Julie Lloyd, M: +0415 799 890

Protective cropping project leader
Dr Elio Jovicich, M: +0488 770 925

Links for further information:

PARDI: www.spc.int/lrd (go to ‘Focus Areas)
ACIAR: www.aciar.gov.au