The overall aim of the project is to improve sustainable yields of quality mangoes in Pakistan and Australia, by establishing disease-free nurseries, developing integrated orchard and disease management approaches and building up capacity to deliver on-farm research and extension activities.
Significant scope exists for the further development of the mango industries in both Pakistan and Australia. In Pakistan the Government is seeking to quadruple horticulture sector export, including mangoes - from the current value of US$119 million to US$600 million within the next 5 years. The sustainable development of the mango industry in both counties is hampered by a shortage of high-quality fruit for export. In addition to postharvest handling and storage, disease and pest losses, variable productivity due to orchard management issues, and market access challenges are constraining mango industry development.
In Pakistan, the sudden death disease syndrome (MSDS) is an immediate production challenge facing the mango industry. Malformation and fruit flies are also widespread problems. In some cases the causal organisms of these diseases and pests have been identified, while for others these have yet to be confirmed. The availability of disease-free planting material and better tree management in conjunction with fertilisation and irrigation regimes that are better attuned with the mango growth cycle are seen as critical components of improved orchard management.
In Australia dendritic spot, a sporadic and unpredictable postharvest disease of mangoes which often occurs after postharvest treatments has been identified by over 60% of Australian growers as a constraint limiting the quality of marketable fruit.
The four areas of focus of the ASLP mango production project (HORT/2005/153) are: 1. Establishment of clean nurseries, 2. Improvements in orchard husbandry, 3. Detection and management of mango sudden death and 4. Improvements in training and extension. Good progress was made with activities associated with each of these focus areas, during the first year of the project operations.
For the establishment of clean nurseries, the target was to initiate capacity for a mango research nursery at the Mango Research Station at Shujabad in Punjab and another at the Sindh Horticulture Research Institute at Mirpurkhas in Sindh. Structures for these nurseries have been re-furbished at both stations and there is good progress with the establishment of functional research nurseries. The other target was to encourage and technically support private commercial nursery operators to establish model commercial nurseries in each of the two main mango production regions of Punjab and Sindh, from which other operators could learn and duplicate in their establishments. One private commercial nursery operator from Multan visited Australia and undertook training through a Crawford-funded training fellowship. He has commenced the construction and establishment of the model commercial nursery in the Multan area. There have been expressions of interest from a number of commercial nursery operators from the Sindh and one will soon be selected and assisted through the Crawford fund to undergo similar training in Australia, so that he can establish a model commercial nursery for Sindh.
The last activity associated with clean nurseries establishment was the publication of a nursery manual which could facilitate clean nursery establishment by others. This is a collaborative activity with the Pakistan Federal Seed Certification Board and the Punjab Fruit and Vegetable Development Project, all of who also have this as an output of their on-going projects. An outline for the publication of this manual has been produced and the activity is on schedule to produce the first draft by the end of year two and have the final document published as scheduled by the end of year 3.
In the focus of improving tree husbandry to increase yields of quality fruits, one of the activities was the identification and introduction of rootstocks with tolerance to adverse abiotic conditions such as high pH and salinity. A good number of mono-embryonic rootstock sources from 3 locally cultivated varieties (Chaunsa, Sindhri & Langra) have been identified from the screening of over 1500 trees with apparent good salt tolerance. Seedlings of a known salt tolerant variety (13-1) have been imported from Australia and are being conditioned at the National Agriculture Research Center (NARC) in Islamabad, for later distribution to the different research centers for evaluation and use in establishing salt tolerance rootstock sources. Nutrient and canopy management trials were also established as activities to improve tree husbandry. Unfortunately, these trials were affected by the heavy frost that went through most of the production districts of Multan. In the few farms in the area where the effects were less and in other farms in Sindh where these trials were also conducted, the initial results are very encouraging, indicating that current orchards could be improved through appropriate nutrient applications and a carefully planned pruning schedule to reduce tree height, without severely affecting the yields of quality fruits.
Studies on the mango sudden death syndrome (MSDS) were closely linked with on-going activities in the national project focusing on the aetiology and management of this disease. Progress was made with the completion of surveys initiated through the national project. Disease detection studies were completed with the standardization of sampling and isolating methods among researchers and the identification and testing of the main pathogens (Ceratocystis fimbriata and Lasiodiplodia theobromae) involved in this disease syndrome. The role of other minor pathogens in the syndrome was also investigated and demonstrated. Initiated studies which are on-going are also demonstrating that the bark beetle has a major role in the transmission and spread of this disease within orchards. The two main associated pathogens have been isolated from infected beetles. A grower guide showing various stages of symptoms development of the disease has been developed. It will be linked with action points during initial phases of the disease and made available to growers for use. There was limited progress on research on the epidemiology of dendritic spots due to the absence of a graduate student fellowship.
In capacity building, individuals have undertaken training in Australia and there have been a number of group training seminars and workshops delivered by visiting Australian project scientists as well as national project counterparts on different areas of the project focus. Individual trainings have been on commercial nursery establishment and the implementation of extension strategies, both undertaken in Australia through Crawford funds. Another individual training was in project management through the John Dillon fellowship. More individual graduate training fellowships are expected to commerce through the John Alright Fellowships during the next academic year. Group training workshops and seminars have focused on integrated disease management strategies, tree pruning in good orchard management and procedures in the establishment of clean and disease-free nurseries. During the first year of project operation, a total of 252 researchers have been trained through 14 training workshops. It is also estimated that more than 3600 growers have been addressed and directed through 19 seminars/workshops conducted in different production districts.
In the communication and dissemination of the project outcomes, two project Newsletters were produced and the third is in the press while the forth is also in progress. Project brochures highlighting some of the project outcomes have also been produced and distributed to growers and other stakeholders.
The four areas of focus of the ASLP mango production project (HORT/2005/153) are: 1. Establishment of clean nurseries, 2. Improvements in orchard husbandry, 3. Detection and management of mango sudden death and 4. Improvements in training and extension. Some of the activities that were designed to be completed by year two of the project have now been completed and things are on track to meet the planned targets.
The two clean nurseries established at Mango Research Station (MRS) Shujabad in Punjab and at Sindh Horticulture Research Institute (SHRI) at Mirpurkhas in Sindh are now completed and are being utilized to produce disease-free plants for further research at the stations and then sharing with commercial nursery establishments. About 3500 disease-free mango seedlings are the first outcome of this model research nurseries activity. On identifying suitable materials for nursery potting mixes, two suitable potting mixes have been identified from a range of about 200 different option combinations that were evaluated. These are now being used for raising nursery plants at the research stations. For planned grafting activities, 30 mother plants made up of 6 commercial varieties have been screened by NARC scientists and shifted to isolation chambers. In addition, 3 poly-embryonic varieties (R2E2, Nam Doc Mai & Carabao) have also been acquired and shared among Punjab and Sindh researchers for use in ongoing and future breeding programmes.
The disease-free commercial private nursery (Faiz-a-Farm) initiated during the first year at Multan has been completed and in the coming season clean mango seedlings will be commercially available to growers for the first time from the nursery. There have been a number expressions of interest from commercial nursery operators from Sindh to undergo planned training on commercial nursery production but this has not yet been finalized. The main barrier has been with language communication because of the limited English ability of these operators to undertake the training in Australia. The issue will be finalised before the end of the project as plans have been intensified to identify and get the nursery person trained soon.
A nursery certification programme has been initiated by the Federal Seed Certification and Registration Department of Pakistan in collaboration with the Punjab Fruit and Vegetable Development Project. Last year it was agreed that a joint manual for model nursery establishment will be produced with contributions and sharing of credit by personnel from all the interested and participating institutions. A deadline has been set for the final draft of this manual to be available by November 30, 2009.
Identification and introduction of rootstocks with tolerance to adverse abiotic conditions such as high pH and salinity was another activity where an internationally known salt tolerant rootstock (13-1) was imported into Pakistan from Australia and shared with growers, BZU and the provincial researchers at MRS and SHRI. The plants are being grown in soils with high pH of over 8.5 and EC above 3300 s/cm and so far are growing quite well.
Last season, heavy frost damaged a nutrient management trial but the trial was repeated and gave excellent results early this year. The trees were pruned just after harvest, applied with nitrogen and PBZ, which encouraged maximum flowering and fruit set. The experiment will continue till March 2010 and will be extended unto a Sindhri variety. Similar experiments in Sindh have demonstrated that with balanced fertilizer applications plants can flush at the right time and increase tree yields.
The National Project on MSDS has achieved its targets and is going to end by June 30, 2009. Based on surveys initiated through this national project, a pictorial guide for MSDS stages of infection and corresponding management practices has been developed and printed for distribution to growers. Laboratory methods for the isolation Ceratocystis fimbriata initiated through this project will be finalized and made available to researchers by the end of Dec 2009. The successful isolation of Ceratocystis fimbriata from soils from diseased orchards has highlighted the importance of orchard sanitation in MSDS management.
The bits and pieces related to the epidemiology of the MSDS are being put together to come up with a complete picture. The bark beetle has been demonstrated to be the main carrier of the associated pathogen, and its attraction towards stressed plants have also shown or linked the rapid spread of the disease to poor orchard management. On the management of the diseases, fungicides have been evaluated for its management along with botanical extracts and the results will be linked to planned future research on MSDS management..
In collaboration with other on going projects such as the Integrated Pest Management Project & Fruit and Vegetable Development Project, grower demonstrations have been initiated and are being conducted on an area of over 1367 acres of mango trees. This is in close linkages with model FFS farms in Punjab and Sindh.
Dissemination of project outcomes through grower seminars, brochures, handouts and field days were conducted through out the year, despite the inability of the Australian colleagues to visit Pakistan during much of the period because of the current security situation in the country. In the second year, 6 brochures (in local languages as well as in English) and one DVD explaining potting mixes were developed and distributed to growers along the publication of 2 news letters, making the total of 7 Newsletters published on the project so far. A total of 694 growers participated in seminars/trainings/field days during this reporting period, in addition to about 253 researchers and extension agents who were also trained. The drawback in capacity building has been that so far none of the applicants submitted through the project for the John Alright Fellowships for graduate training has been successful. Another attempt will be made in the coming round and we hope the project will succeed in securing such. We are also hopeful that the review recommendation that specific positions in JAF be dedicated to ASLP training will be considered and implemented.
Overall, it was a very successful project year with the completion of the ASLP Review that commended highly the achievements and direction of the project.