MILE-A-MINUTE: FILIPINO PRISONERS TO OFFER ENVIRONMENTAL AID IN PALAU

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By Robert Seward

KOROR, Palau (December 25, 1998 - Pacific Horizons/Marianas Variety, PIDP/CPIS)---Filipino fishermen currently under house arrest in Palau for illegal fishing have been asked to help in the government’s drive against mile-a-minute, a noxious weed detected on Koror.

Palau officials are asking the Justice Ministry for help eradicate the spread of the weed.

The plant is also known as bittervine (Mikania miscrantha) and is on quarantine lists around the region, including those in the United States and Australia.

Mile-a-minute is known for it’s vigorous and rampant growth. The plant is a member of the daisy family, but is a serious danger to agriculture in many parts of the Pacific, including Fiji, the Cook Islands, Guam, Niue, the Solomon Islands, Samoa and American Samoa. Mile-a-minute is also found on Christmas Island, Bougainville, New Britain and the central districts of New Guinea. Other areas of the world have also seen the invasion of the weed.

First detected in Palau in 1993, the fast-growing plant has proved hard to kill. In an interview, Palau Natural Resources and Development director Demei Otobed expressed serious concern over the rapid spread of this obnoxious weed. "Without killing it, it will cover Koror, Babeldaob, Anguaur, Peleiu, and eventually the whole of Palau," warned Olobed. Officials report that "mile per minute" has become very, very thick and has grown on all kinds of vegetation and buildings in some parts of Koror.

Eradication of the many-branched, thin-stemmed vine is particularly difficult. In Palau the Bureau of Natural Resources and Development (BNRD) recommends that the best way to eliminate this plant is to gather the branches and dry and burn them on site. "You have to uproot the seedling or use herbicide to kill the plant," Palau’s Otobed said.

"It’s very hard to kill the weed because of its ability to survive and re-grow," said Otobed, as he explained that any of the roots left or attached to the ground will grow into new plants. Besides, the "mile per minute" has tiny seeds that become airborne and establish the plant in other areas.

Dr. Joel Miles, a professor of agriculture at the Palau Community College, first detected mile-a-minute in Palau.

The plant gets it’s name, mile-a-minute, from the fact that it is reported to grow at rates of up to 2.7 cm per day. Within a few months, a single plant can grow to cover 25 square meters. Plants die back during the dry season only to spring back when the rains come. Control is difficult because the plant can grow from very small stem fragments. In addition, a mature plant may produce 40,000 viable seeds in a year’s time.

Since detection in 1993, Palau officials have only been partially successful in eliminating the noxious weed. Incoming travelers or freight may have introduced seeds into the country. Seeds are easily carried in or on baggage, clothing or shoes. Once established, the plant spreads at an alarming rate.

Compiled from an article by Malou L. Sayson in the Marianas Variety and other sources.

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