The Pakistan horticulture sector is a significant supplier of domestic and exports markets. Mango is one of the major crops, with 53443 tonnes valued at $16.54 million produced in 2000-01. This is well below expected production potential. Between 1995-96 and 2004-05 production increased by only 3.4 per cent, compared with 100 per cent increases in China and the Philippines. Pests, diseases, poor orchard management techniques and large levels of postharvest losses have all been listed as causes of low productivity. Of special concern was mango sudden death syndrome (MSDS) which has reduced productivity in some orchards by more than 20%. This small research activity enabled an Australian study team and key Pakistani collaborators to quantify and assess the impacts of the above factors on limited productivity, in order to prioritise future research activities.
This activity, an agreed priority under the Agricultural Sector Linkage Program (ASLP) between Pakistan and Australia, addressed serious productivity constraints in the Pakistan mango industry. Key elements of the activity were:
documentation of the current industry status and available information
a four-day workshop for 13 Australians and 35 Pakistan participants
eight days of field surveys and visits to R&D agencies in the main mango production regions of the Punjab and Sindh provinces by the Australian study team and key Pakistani collaborators
detailed assessment of the background information, workshop and survey findings to develop recommendations for future R&D needs.
The documentation of the industry status provided insights into current management practices, a list of key R&D providers and a compilation of knowledge about causes and control of MSDS in Pakistan and elsewhere.
The workshop identified a number of R&D priorities for diseases and pests, orchard management and capacity building that could be investigated in an ASLP project. Topics for disease research included confirming the causes and pathogenicity of the mango sudden death syndrome (MSDS) and developing suitable strategies to control it.
For pests, it involved an economic analysis of the newly identified midge problem as well as establishing pre- and post-harvest protocols to deal with mango fruit fly issues. In orchard management, nutrition and irrigation management were singled out as the critical issues for attention to improve mango productivity, quality and reduction of MSDS incidence.
Improvement in nursery production of planting material was also identified as an area that needs urgent action to stop or slow down the re-cycling of disease and pest problems in old and new orchards.
In capacity building, training modules were identified as critical in educating growers, contractors, researchers and extension officers in different aspects of orchard management for production of quality mangoes. Other aspects of capacity building identified were the training of researchers through graduate degree programs as well as the extension of new technologies to growers through the Farmer Field School model and other suitable methods of information dissemination.
During the survey visits that followed the workshop, there were interactions between growers, researchers and other industry stakeholders, and the problems and issues facing mango production and quality in Pakistan were examined and discussed. Disease symptomatic samples as well as soil and leaf samples were collected for laboratory analysis.
MSDS was confirmed as a major production issue of concern in just about every orchard visited, averaging 3.2 trees per 10 tree sample in the Punjab and six trees per sample in the Sindh. The key issues of concern with MSDS were its early identification and procedures to stop or slow its progress in orchards. A number of pathogens were identified from field samples, including Ceratocystis sp and Lasiodiplodia sp. Insect pests were mainly classified as a minor issue. Other major issues identified during the visits were problems of orchard management related to nutrition, irrigation, water quality and ways of synchronising tree phenology.
Detailed assessment of the background information, workshop and survey findings has identified the following key areas that will be addressed through a new ACIAR project, Development of integrated crop management practices to increase sustainable yield and quality of mangoes in Pakistan and Australia (HORT/2005/153) and other ASLP activities to improve industry productivity within a relatively short period ( three to five years) that will deliver lasting benefits for the mango industries in Pakistan and Australia.
Develop improved nursery systems for the production of high quality disease-free planting material
Develop improved tree husbandry options for the sustainable production of high quality fruit
Develop improved detection and management strategies for mango sudden death syndrome disease and other critical pests of mangoes
Build capacity in the Pakistan and Australian mango industries to conduct integrated and targeted research, development and extension programs.