FIJI TARO FARMERS HAVE NEW WEAPON AGAINST BEETLE

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, July 18) - Dalo [taro] farmers who have suffered heavy losses due to dalo beetle attacks can breathe a sigh of relief with an effective treatment now available.

The two insecticides, imidacloprid and bifenthrin, are to be launched on Thursday, July 20 by the new Agriculture Minister Gyani Nand at Tokotoko in Navua.

This was after approval was given for the chemicals to be registered locally as approved pesticides.

These chemical treatments for the dalo beetle have been identified after many years of research pioneered by the Taro Beetle Management project, collaboration between SPC's Land Resources Division and Pacific Island countries affected by the beetle.

The project received funding from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

A chemical residue analysis carried out by the University of the South Pacific showed acceptable levels of pesticides in treated taro corms, indicating that the taro is safe to eat. These results will reassure consumers and benefit the taro export trade.

The taro beetle is the biggest threat to the local taro industry, which last year earned the Fiji government FJ$19 million [US$10.9 million] in export revenue.

However, it is estimated that up to 40 percent of the taro harvested is unmarketable due to damage caused by the beetle, which is widespread in southern Viti Levu.

Trials are being conducted in Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, where the beetle is also found.

The Taro Beetle Management project based at the South Pacific Commission Land Resources Division (LRD) has coordinated research over the past couple of years to identify a control package to manage taro beetle. The integrated and holistic approach adopted to finding a solution to the taro beetle problem involved input from the various thematic areas groups of LRD including biosecurity, plant health, crop production and information and extension.

July 19, 2006

Fiji Times Online: http://www.fijitimes.com .

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