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Partners : Partners: Papua New Guinea
8 PALM OIL SPRING 2012 PARTNERS around an oil palm tree nestled at the base of a hill. Activities like these are one of several components involved in enhancing agricultural productivity by safeguarding the conservation of soil and water resources. "I'm the guy on the ground in regards to research of oil palm in West New Britain," Steve Nake says. "My key concern is to determine the optimum nutrient requirements for oil palm grown in different areas. Everything works hand in hand here: look after the oil palm production and you look after the community." BENEFITS OF PRIVATE SECTOR INVESTMENT Commercial sector partnerships in the oil palm industry in PNG are part of ACIAR's research approach. It is a decision that has helped spread information about best management practices, in addition to raising smallholder productivity and incomes. The commercial sector invests heavily in the industry, including through the provision of farm management advice, in the sale of inputs to smallholders and in the establishment of joint-venture companies with customary landowner groups. Of particular value has been the development of effective land-use agreements between the commercial sector and customary landowners. These agreements, along with the rollout of an innovative payment system for inputs to lift production, is helping manage the realities of smallholder production. These positive developments rely heavily on an R&D strategy that understands smallholder issues, providing four areas for further development: n an understanding of the socioeconomic factors that affect productivity among smallholders; n improvements to smallholder agronomic and farm-management strategies; n an understanding of smallholder livelihood strategies and their influence on smallholder production; and n analysis of recent socioagronomic changes occurring among smallholder producers. One of the participating companies is the Oil Palm Industry Corporation (OPIC) in Hoskins, West New Britain Province. One of its managers, Frank Bao, looks after 1,600 oil-palm-growing smallholder farmers. He says the primary aim of the research is to develop appropriate extension interventions that improve smallholder oil palm productivity and strengthen the economic and social wellbeing of smallholder households. "Insect pests are an all-too-common production constraint," Frank Bao says. "So our role is to help the farmers identify problems and pests on their farms." Martin Reky, a farmer who grows vegetables, coconuts and oil palm on his small farm near the township of Mai in West New Britain Province, approves of the research emphasis. "The palm oil is a good cash crop, but I do have problems with stick insects and Sexava grasshoppers," he says. ENTOMOLOGY AND THE CONTROL OF PESTS Charles Dewhurst is the head of entomology at PNG OPRA and his passion for his work shows through. His eyes light up when asked a question about his favourite insect, the Sexava---PNG's principal oil palm pest. Sexava is a group of insect species from the Tettigoniidae family---variously known as long- horned grasshoppers, katydids or bush crickets. These insects cause damage by feeding on the oil palm fronds. Where populations are high, the resulting defoliation can be extremely severe, resulting in reductions in photosynthesis and lower fruit yields. "Our main focus is on integrated pest Laboratory activities assocated with palm oil processing. Oil palm pests. Oil palm pests. Inside the palm oil processing mill.
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