Improving root crop resilience and biosecurity in Pacific Island Countries and Australia

Project code
AUD 2,050,001
Research program manager
Ms Irene Kernot
Project leader
Dr Julie O'Halloran
Commissioned organisation
Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
JAN 2022
DEC 2024
Project status
Legally committed/Active
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This project aims to improve sweetpotato planting material and planting practices as part of a broader program for resilient root cropping systems, responsive to the challenges of pests and diseases and climate change.

Based on the experiences in PNG which commenced with development of pathogen-tested (PT) material and building awareness through field trials and farmer awareness, this project continues to build on existing research, by addressing recommendations to investigate yield penalties from poor planting material and planting practices.

Widely grown in PNG, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, sweetpotato is increasing in popularity in other Pacific countries. Between 2009 and 2014, The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations noted a 61% increase in production in Fiji, 7% in Solomon Islands and 5% in Tonga.

Sweetpotato is identified by all Pacific Islands Countries as necessary in food nutritional security and disaster reduction strategies. Rapid production of planting material (new vines every 3 weeks), ease of planting, early maturity relative to other root crops (3-4 months) and high nutritious yields make it an ideal option in disaster recovery.

Expected project outcomes

  • Adoption of PT material and optimised planting practices by sweetpotato farmers
  • Improving sweetpotato farmer (both genders) livelihoods through improved values on sweetpotato production
  • Standardising of Pacific region sampling and viral diagnostic protocols and increased preparedness for biosecurity agencies
  • Sweetpotato farmers have greater awareness and knowledge of PT and improved planting practices
  • Increasing stakeholder capacity in PT and optimised planting practices
  • Sweetpotato PT planting material available to farmers to trial in PICs
  • Quantifying benefits of PT planting material and optimised planting practices
  • More accurate sweetpotato virus diagnostics.
Key partners
Australian Sweetpotato Growers Incorporated
Kastom Gaden Association
Ministry of Agriculture
Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries
Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Forestry and Fisheries
Ministry of Agriculture & Livestock (MAL) Solomon Islands
Pacific Community
Pacific Island Farmers Organisation Network
Queensland Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries
Solomon Islands National University
The University of Queensland