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Old 01-08-2003, 08:20 AM
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Yam farmers urge not to abandon local varieties by James Kila

PAPUA NEW GUINEA yam farmers have been advised against abandoning local yams in favour of introduced varieties from Africa.

The advice was from the Principal Agronomist of the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI), Jimmy Risimeri.

The introduced African Yam is promising to local consumption. It is high yielding, even on marginal land compared to indigenous yams and produces clean and disease-free planting setts.

According to a newsletter by the Rural Industries Council of Papua New Guinea, NARI recently released two varieties of African yams that according to feed-back have gained wide acceptance among farmers in PNG. Many farmers are excited about African yams saying the introduced yam is tastier and produce large tubers than many of the local varieties.

The African or White Yam (Dioscorea rotundata) is a native of West Africa. The yams were on display at the NARI Open Day at the Bubia Research station outside Lae recently.

Some farmers also obtained seedlings at the open day.

“I am happy about this African yam. I know I will get good harvest from what I have heard from the Open Day.” Says Paul a grower from Eastern Highlands.

Mr Risimeri emphasized that the introduced varieties should not replace local yams, but added to the farmers collection of local yams.

“Feedback shows that Morobe and Central province have large number of farmers who have adopted African yam. Madang, East Sepik, Sandaun and Oro have moderate numbers followed by the Highlands region and other coastal provinces,” Mr Risimeri said.

“Awareness of the African yam is spreading and demand for planting material is increasing,” he added.

He said along with exciting stories of mega tubers and memorable feasts, remarks reaching the research team imply that farmers are likely to neglect their own local yam species and varieties and allocate more of their resources to African yam

“While the short-term gains may be gratifying, farmers should be mindful of the long-term benefits and potential threat likely to affect the sustainability of yam production for food security, income generation ad socio-cultural obligations,” he added.

Mr Risimeri said these African yams perform very well under various agro-ecological conditions in PNG. Given the fact that the indigenous yam species and varieties receive little agricultural research input in the past, it was to be expected that any beneficial technology would get a favourable reception.

According to research findings African yam yields between 30 and 60 tonnes per hectare which is about 50 per cent higher than some of the common cultivars found in major yam growing areas in PNG. Throughout the 1997 drought it was discovered that most the of the varieties of this species performed almost normally, giving higher tuber yields that either of the commonly grown native species.

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