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Seeds of Life - increasing production of staple crops in East Timor

Colin Piggin1, Brian Palmer2, Reinhardt Howeler3, Shyam Nigam4, Edwin Javier5, Asep Setiawan6, Ganesan Srinivasan7, Brian Monaghan2, Fernando Gonzalez7, Upali Jayasinghe6, Deolindo da Silva2, Genaro San Valentin2, Afonso De Oliveira8 and Claudino Nabais2

1 Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, PO Box 1571, Canberra, ACT 2601. Email piggin@aciar.gov.au
2
MAFF, PO Box 408, Fomento Building, Dili, East Timor. Email bpcnrt@telstra.com; deolindo_dasilva@yahoo.com.sg;
claudino_nabais@hotmail.com
; gsanvale@hotmail.com
3
CIAT, c/o FCRI, Dept. of Agriculture, Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900, Thailand. Email CIAT-Bangkok@cgiar.org
4
ICRISAT, Patancheru, Andhra Pradesh 502 324, India. Email s.nigam@cgiar.org
5
IRRI, DAPO Box 7777, Metro Manila, Philippines. Email e.javier@cgiar.org
6
CIP, Jl. Raya Ciapus, Bogor 16610, Indonesia. Email: asetiawan@cgiar.org
7
CIMMYT, Apdo, Postal 6-641.06600 Mexico, D.F. Mexico. Email g.srinivasan@cgiar.org
8
Catholic Relief Services, Baucau, East Timor. Email Crsbaucau2@aol.com

Abstract

The ACIAR Seeds of Life project in East Timor has the goals of 1) improving food security through the introduction, testing and distribution to farmers of improved germplasm of the major food crops and, 2) enhancing the capacity of scientists and technicians to independently develop and manage crop improvement programs for the benefit of village farmers and the nation. The major staple crops being tested are irrigated rice, upland rice, maize, cassava, sweet potato and peanut (groundnut). The project has evaluated 10-20 potentially adapted lines of these crops across 4-5 differing environments over three wet seasons in 2000-03.

It was very encouraging that many introduced accessions of rice, maize, peanut, sweet potato and cassava produced much higher yields than local check varieties and some appeared quite acceptable to local consumers. For each crop, several accessions were broadly adapted with good yields across sites, whilst others yielded well at some sites but poorly at others. The increased yields possible with better-adapted material should bring strong benefits when extended and taken up by village farmers.

Media summary

Introduced rice, maize, cassava, beans, sweet potato and peanut varieties gave much higher yields than local varieties and will bring increased food security to village farmers in East Timor.

Key Words

Staple crops, East Timor, rice, maize, peanut, cassava, sweet potato

Introduction

Timor Leste (East Timor) has 850,000 inhabitants and, with a GDP/capita of US$400, is one of the poorest 10 countries in the world. Some 85% of the population live in rural areas, where people rely on subsistence agriculture and have little capacity to participate in the cash economy. Maize is the major staple crop with sweet potato, cassava, peanuts, beans, pumpkins, rice, taro and yams also prominent. Unreliable wet seasons and drought are common and food insecurity remains a major problem. Increasing crop yields in a sustainable manner can help alleviate food shortages and is a key priority for agriculture in East Timor.

The country, formerly a Portuguese colony and Indonesian province, voted for independence in August 1999. In the few weeks following the independence vote, there was widespread and extensive damage of infrastructure and institutions, displacement of people, and disruption to farming and marketing activities. Since then, there has been a shortage of well-adapted planting material of staple crops, with emergency crop seed brought in during 1999/2000 not necessarily well adapted to local conditions and locally-used material lacking vigour and purity. There is a recognized need to reinvigorate the planting material of the major crops.

The Seeds of Life project was developed in response to these cropping issues with the goals of improving food security through the introduction, testing and distribution to farmers of improved germplasm of the major food crops and enhancing the capacity of scientists to independently develop and manage crop improvement programs.

The project has been a collaborative one between ACIAR, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Non-Government Organizations (World Vision East Timor, Catholic Relief Services, Australian Volunteers International) and Centers of the Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) including the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the International Maize and Wheat Centre (CIMMYT), the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the International Potato Centre (CIP) and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

Methods

The project tested 10–20 potentially adapted lines of each of the main crops widely across 4-5 differing environments at Aileu, Baucau, Maliana, Maubisse, Betano and Loes/Liquica in 2000/01, 2001/02 and 2002/03. Soils were of sedimentary origin with a pH of 4.9-7.5 and high in OM, Ca, Mg, K and P (Howeler et. al 2003). Crops were planted around January/February each year. The wet season usually begins in late November/early December and continues until April/May in lowland northern areas (Loes, Baucau), with extended rains into July in the south (Betano). October and November can also be wet in the central highlands (Aileu). There is very little rain between July and October. However, rainfall is extremely variable, short dry periods are common in the wet season and there are some years when the wet season fails altogether. Long-term rainfall at project locations is presented in Piggin et. al (2003); long-term annual averages are around 1190mm at Baucau, 1350mm at Betano, 970mm at Liquica and 1640mm at Aileu.

Crops were established and managed according to standard institute recommendations and normal farmer practice. The main deviation was that all crops received a low basal dressing of fertiliser of 15:15:15 N:P2O5:K2O to reduce site differences in fertility and allow reasonable crop growth and better expression of genetic differences. Farmers rarely use fertilisers but influence fertility of cropping areas by selection of better soils and use of manures and legume rotations. Plot sizes were 1.5-5.0 x 5 m with plant spacings of 75x50cm for maize, 20x20cm for rice, 50x10cm for peanut, 100x20cm for sweet potato and 100x100cm for cassava. Observations and measurements were made assessing crop growth, yield and taste. Accession details, methodology and results are described more fully in Piggin et. al (2003), Ceniceros et. al (2003), Javier et. al (2003), Jayasinghe et. al (2003), Nigam et. al (2003), and Howeler et. al (2003).

Results

Testing across three years and 4-5 locations has identified many introduced lines of maize, rice, peanut, sweet potato and cassava which yield much more that local farmer-grown varieties. For maize, the early maturing S97D145, the late maturing LYDMR and SW5 and the high protein S99TLWQ-HG AB produced 3-6 t/ha whilst local maize produced 1-2.5 t/ha (Table 1). For cassava, OMM 96-01-93, OMM 90-03-100, CMM 96-25-25 and CMM 96-36-269 often produced 25-40t/ha whilst local cassava produced 15-20t/ha (Table 1). The latter variety is also quite tolerant of Zn deficiency and was considered of good taste by farmers harvesting the trials. In data not shown, these lines produced 65-100 t/ha against the local variety production of 40 t/ha in a 2002/03 trial at Betano, with the OMM 96-01-93 yield of 102 t/ha the highest ever recorded by CIAT in Asia. This indicates that cassava could become a very economically important starch-production crop.

Table 1. Grain, fresh root or pod/kernel yield (t/ha) of selected accessions of maize, cassava and peanut at various locations in East Timor during 2001/02 and 2002/03.

Pedigree

2000/01

2001/02

2002/03

Maliana

Aileu

Baucau

Aileu

Betano

Loes

Aileu

Baucau

Maize

SW5

2.51

2.80

4.14

3.54

2.67

1.81

4.6

 

LYDMR

2.86

3.30

3.08

2.70

2.54

2.80

5.8

 

S97D145

2.75

3.23

2.17

4.10

3.22

1.53

4.2

 

S99TLWQ-HG AB

   

3.10

3.50

2.63

1.74

2.70

 

Local*

2.16

1.14

1.02

2.04

2.55

1.8

 

LSD (0.05)

0.84

0.68

0.62

0.70

0.91

0.97

   

Cassava

CMM 96-25-25

   

20.7a

26.6b

   

28.4a

 

CMM 96-36-269

   

21.3a

28.8b

   

27.9a

 

OMM 90-03-100

35.4

 

21.1a

38.8a

   

25.0a

 

OMM 96-01-93

   

14.6b

17.1c

   

25.2a

 

Local Mentega

14.9

 

14.1b

15.9c

   

21.3a

 

Peanut

Pods

Pods

Kernels

 

Kernels

Kernels

Pods

Pods

ICGV 94063

2.08

1.53

2.45ab

 

1.02bc

3.43a

 

1.70cd

ICGV 95278

3.39

2.19

2.54ab

 

1.03bc

2.55b

5.1a

2.40a

ICGV 93269

3.33

1.53

2.72a

 

1.15ab

2.04bcd

 

2.30a

ICGV 94002

2.19

1.83

2.15b

 

1.36ab

2.18bc

   

ICGV 95248

1.56

2.25

1.73b

 

1.71a

2.05bcd

 

2.00abcd

ICGV 95322

1.67

1.75

2.84a

 

1.27ab

1.36d

5.6a

2.15abc

Local

2.03

1.64

1.67b

 

0.64c

2.04bcd

4.7a

1.70cd

LSD (0.05)

1.16

1.21

           

Means followed by the same letter are not significantly different (P<0.05) within species and columns

* local varieties may be different in different sites and years

For groundnut, the four varieties that gave highest yields at one location and/or high yields across locations were ICGV 94063, 93269, 95278, and 95248, often yielding 2-3+ t/ha of pods. Local check varieties, in contrast, yielded 1-2 t/ha (Table 1). Several special purpose varieties introduced in the 2001-02 season were evaluated separately at Aileu and gave outstanding performance; these were foliar-disease-resistant ICGV 86590 which had a pod yield of 3.9 t/ha, large-seeded confectionary type with iron chlorosis tolerance ICGV 88438 which gave 4.6 t/ha, and the medium duration ICGV 87123 which gave 5.8 t/ha.

For sweet potato (Table 2), introduced clones consistently gave much better yields (up to 10-20 t/ha) than local varieties (1-7 t/ha) across years and locations. Varieties that gave the best yield at a location and/or good yields across locations were CIP-1, CIP-4, CIP-5, CIP-6 and CIP-7. CIP-5 had low acceptability but the others scored an acceptable 1-4 at one or both of the 2000/01 villager taste tests.

Table 2. Fresh root yield (t/ha) and taste of selected sweet potato varieties at various locations in East Timor during 2000/01, 2001/02 and 2002/03.

Clone

Maliana

Aileu

Baucau

2000/01

2000/01

2001/02

2002/03

2000/01

2001/02

2002/03

Yield

Taste1

Yield

Taste

Yield

Yield

Yield

Yield

Yield

CIP-1

4.8 cd

3

10.2 bc

4

15.2 b

20.2 a

3.2 de

8.3 ab

17.6 a

CIP-2

12.2 ab

8

15.2 ab

3

8.9 cd

9.0 c

12.1 ab

8.6 ab

9.6 c

CIP-3

12.6 ab

1

9.9 bc

2

7.5 d

8.3 c

7.1 c

8.1 b

9.1 c

CIP-4

13.3 ab

9

17.4 ab

1

11.8 a

11.6 bc

6.5 cd

8.8 ab

9.2 c

CIP-5

8.4 bc

10

10.1 bc

10

11.2 ab

14.4 b

8.7 bc

9.6 a

17.1 ab

CIP-6

14.0 a

2

16.0 ab

6

7.7 d

15.1 b

9.9 abc

9.2 ab

15.1 b

CIP-7

12.8 ab

4

12.8 bc

7

9.5 bcd

18.5 ab

12.6 a

8.9 ab

16.3 ab

Local M

3.2 d

7

6.9 bc

9

0.0

0.02

1.9 e

1.1 c

0.0

Local P

   

No data

 

0.0

0.02

1.0 c

0.0

1. 1 = most palatable and 10 = most unpalatable in taste tests with 20 villagers

2. At Aileu Local M and P produced 5.8 and 10.8 t/ha when harvested at 7 MAP

Four promising introductions of irrigated lowland rice (PSB RC 20, 54, 58, 74) were identified (Table 3). Their yields generally were higher than the local check variety (Nona Portu) and IR 64, which are widely grown. For upland rice, differences between local and introduced lines were less consistent but PSB RC5 and UPLRI-5 generally yielded 30-60% higher that local Towuti.

Table 3. Grain yield (t/ha) of selected irrigated and upland rice varieties at various locations in East Timor during 2001/02 and 2002/03.

Ecosystem and variety

Location

Ecosystem and variety

Location

Irrigated Lowland

Betano
2001/02

Liquica
2001/02

Upland

Loes
2003/04

Baucau
2003/04

PSB RC 74

8.10

4.27

B6149F-MR-7

1.85

2.35

PSB RC 54

6.57

4.75

IR57924-9

3.33

1.66

PSB RC 20

5.90

4.12

PSB RC5

3.71

1.75

PSB RC 58

5.60

4.43

UPL RI-5

4.22

2.31

IR 64

5.91

2.63

UPL RI-7

2.87

1.62

Local (Nona Portu)

3.49

2.89

Local (Towuti)

2.13

1.80

LSD (5%)

2.05

1.18

LSD (5%)

0.78

0.59

Conclusion

Many introduced accessions of irrigated rice, maize, peanut, sweet potato and cassava produced much higher yields than local check varieties and some appeared quite acceptable to local consumers. For each crop, several accessions were broadly adapted with good yields across sites, whilst others yielded well at some sites but poorly at others. The higher yields from introduced accessions may reflect breeding progress over the last 20-30 years and also planting material that was pure and disease-free. The project illustrates the value of crop conservation and improvement programs at international agricultural research centres. The increased yields possible with better-adapted material should bring strong benefits when extended and taken up by East Timorese village farmers.

Some special-purpose lines yielded well, and could provide opportunities to improve village protein intake (high protein maize), increase exports (large-seeded peanut) and provide livestock fodder (high-carbohydrate cassava). The next phase of the project will focus on promotion and uptake of better varieties by village farmers. The lines identified above will form the basis of an extension program involving on-farm testing, seed multiplication, seed dissemination to farmers, and variety release.

Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful for funding support from The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research for the conduct of this project.

References

Ceniceros FG, Palmer B, Piggin C, San Valentin G, de sa Benevides FT and De Oliveira A (2003). Challenges and opportunities for maize research in East Timor. ACIAR Proceedings 113, 72-78.

Howeler, RH, Palmer B, Piggin C and Hartojo K (2003). Evaluation of cassava and bean germplasm in East Timor. ACIAR Proceedings 113, 95-104.

Javier EL, San Valentin G, Kapukha P, Monaghan B, Palmer B, Piggin C, de sa Benavides FT, da Silva D and De Oliveiro A (2003). Selection of better rice for East Timor. ACIAR Proceedings 113, 79-83.

Jayasinghe U, Setiawan A, Kapukha P, Piggin C and Palmer B (2003). Performance of some CIP sweet potato clones under East Timorese conditions. ACIAR Proceedings 113, 84-89.

Nigam, SN, Palmer B, San Valentin G, Kapukha P, Piggin C and Monaghan B (2003). Groundnut: ICRISAT and East Timor. ACIAR Proceedings 113, 90-94.

Piggin C and Palmer B (2003). An introduction to the ACIAR project “Seeds of Life-East Timor.” ACIAR Proceedings 113, 65-71.

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