Adding value through crop improvement innovations

Improving seed systems in Solomon Islands & Papua New Guinea

Though sweetpotato has displaced taro and yam in recent years as the main staple crop in parts of the Solomon Islands, production outputs in the Islands and in Papua New Guinea are being hampered by famers’ limited supply of quality seed.

Unprecedented climate changes, pest and disease outbreaks, and increasing land degradation also make it increasingly difficult for farmers to meet local sweetpotato demand.

The production and dissemination of clean seed – including improved soil management and storage practices – is the backbone of a sustainable crop production system.

CIP and a group of partner institutions are working together to introduce, refine, and disseminate technologies for improved sweetpotato seed supply systems for smallholder farmers practicing low-input agriculture.

At the forefront of the initiative are farmer field schools (FFS), a farmer-led particpatory process where technicians and farmers research and learn together.

The approach gives researchers invaluable insight into farmers’ needs and preferences, and access to information about the performance of integrated pest management (IPM) strategies across a wide range of conditions.

A pilot FFS program in 2009 included sessions on different planting, soil management and storage techniques.

Another project component involves the introduction and evaluation of new CIP-bred, pathogen-tested sweetpotato varieties and the rejuvenation of old, previously infected varieties.

Emphasis has been placed on orange-fleshed sweetpotato varieties for increasing nutritional quality and alleviating the vitamin A deficiency that is common in this region.