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Japanese researchers visit banana farmers of Central province

NARI Southern Regional Centre (SRC), Laloki, hosted four Japanese research scientists and assisted them with logistics to undertake a survey in Hisiu and Pinu villages in the Central province, in August, 2017.

The team of scientists arrived from Lae, Morobe province after spending some days in Kaiapit LLG, Markham district. The purpose of the visit was to conduct a household survey on banana diversity and the complexity surrounding its farming practices.

The research team consisted of Professor Shingo Odani, Drs. Yasuaki Sato, Kagari Shikata - Yesuoka and Koari Komatsu.

The objectives of the survey were to;

• Investigate the diversity of banana varieties in PNG,

• Observe farming practices of banana production in rural areas, and

• Analyze nutritional composition of each banana variety.

After a meeting with the SRC management and staff to briefly introduce the purpose of their visit, they toured the National Banana Germplasm collection at Laloki before heading to Pinu and Hisiu villages to spend the next three days. They were accompanied by NARI scientist Dickson Benny.

Their research was to understand how has banana-farming complex changed in Pinu and Hisiu villages?  They wanted to find out whether cultural prestige, population growth, forest conservation, market demand, introduction of hybrid varieties, urbanization, climate change and pest & disease, are influencing the cultivation of bananas. As part of the study, the researchers lived with families in the villages in order to understand the people’s daily life and routine while visiting the banana gardens, identifying the different cultivars and their local names, and morphologically describing cultivars for cooking and dessert bananas. They also collected five kilograms of air dried Kalapua banana samples for nutritional analysis in Japan.

The team’s visit this year was to refine and analyse more banana varieties than their earlier pilot research in 2015. They hope to analyse as many banana varieties in PNG at present and compare them with varieties from other regions as part of their investigation of world history of agriculture and human immigration. Furthermore, the study is important, in order to develop an improved agriculture system, not only anthropological or historical analysis but also ecological, economical or nutritional analyses are needed.

For example, the pilot study in 2015 revealed that some varieties are rich in Vitamin A. To investigate the factors of Vitamin A storage in banana varieties, farming practices, soil condition or physiological characteristics need to be surveyed to determine the cause. Understanding the nutritional status of banana varieties is important as it adds value to its importance not just for food security but nutritional security as well.

To protect banana varieties as germplasm resources of PNG farmers, it is important to obtain trademark or patent right. To obtain these rights in the global market, classification in global standard and analysis by scientific methods are urgently required. The Japanese researchers are eager to collaborate with NARI and the people of PNG for this purpose.

The team hopes to write an academic paper based on the data they collected during their visits. Academic papers published will be made available to NARI and other relevant partners.

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