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Thursday, May 25, 2017

TIPS TO GROW CHILLI

 

CHILI (Capsicum anuum) is a farming activity to produce fresh chilis. In Malaysia growing chilies are considered a commercial farm production activity or growing as a hobby at home. A total of 2,900 - 3,000 hectare of chili are grown in Malaysia anually producing more than sufficient for fresh chilies (Source: Department of Agriculture, Malaysia). Growing Chillies requires a warm and tropical climate with growing environment and so unless you live in a warm climate your Chillie plants will spend a considerable amount of time indoors or in the greenhouse. Chillies are most often grown in pots or grow-bags and are a good source of vitamin C. They also stimulate the circulation and boost metabolism so give a feeling of energy. Malaysian consume chili in most of thheir dishes from breakfast, lunch and supper. There are many type of chili used in the meal preparation from Cili Besar (Chili), Cili Benggala (Bell Papper), Cili Padi (Small Chili) and Cili Kering (Dries Chili). Dried chili mostly imported from China, India and other source country. Chillies are very similar to sweet bell peppers (Capsicum) but they have a hot fiery flavour instead of the sweet flavour associated with bell peppers. This article are discussing about basic information about growing chili in Malaysia for all readers of “Anim Agriculture Technology” blog.

Growing chily started with Sowing activity. This critical stage normally not seriously organised by farmers. It Is very important to select good quality chili seed that is vigorous, free from pests and diseases and high yielding varieties. If sowing indoors or with the netted condition according to the planting scadule. To sow indoors sow 3 seeds in each 1 inch cell of a seedling tray. One seeding tray has 108 holes for seedling to grow using cocopeat or suitable medium. After germination and when the seedling has reached 4cm in height it was ready to transplant your plants into either a 4 inch pot or into their final position. An 8 - 10 inch pot is ideal. Make sure your pot has good drainage and try lining the pot with a few cm of coarse gravel and make sure the drainage hole is not blocked. If using grow bags then space the plants around 25cm apart. You can give the plant a feed at time of transplanting to help them over the 'ordeal'. Make sure your Chillie plants are in a position that receives a good amount of light. Chillies should not be plants in a suitable distance in the farms or in the polibag arranged.

Soil type to grow chillies grow well in a well drained and fertile soil. If planting in pots be sure to use a good organic compost that will retain moisture. Chilies should be watered regularly to avoid 'flooding' them at wide intervals. Watering 2 or 3 times a week so that the soil is damp (not soaked). Overwatering on a regular basis will cause the roots to rot. You will see flowers developing on the plant, leave them on and they will die after a few weeks and chillies will form. Once the plant is producing fruit you can help it along by giving it a small amount of organic liquid fertiliser every few weeks. When the plant is around 6 inches tall you can remove the growing tip, this will encourage the form of the plant to become more bush like. Chillies can reach around 60cm in height and can be supported with a garden cane or other suitable stake. This may be necessary when the plant is fruiting heavily. Always secure chillies from pests and diseases. In Malaysia the most possible problems is to secure from Chili Mozaic Virus. Other possible diseases such as Antracnose, Fusarium Wilt and others. By following the Good Agriculture Practices (MyGAP) the farmers able to harvest good quality chillies for fresh market. Thanks.

By,
M Anem,
Senior agronomist,
Chili Commercial Farms,
TKPM Pulau Manis,
Kuantan, Pahang.
(9 April 2017)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

HAVE FOOD, HAVE POWER (Part 1)


"HAVE FOOD, HAVE POWER" it is clear when he starts talking about the subject that it is a topic close to the heart of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek. Without a doubt, “food sovereignty” is not just a buzzword for the 57-year-old politician who has been overseeing the country’s agricultural affairs for over a year now. Even after a long, hot, afternoon ploughing through the new maize (corn) farm in Kampung Dadong, near Kemaman, Terengganu, Ahmad Shabery is indefatigable as he shares his aspiration to make the country self-sustainable in its agro-food production, and more. Food sovereignty, or the rights of a nation to produce its own food and not depend on imported food supplies to feed its population, is an important policy for Malaysia to adopt, he stresses. “Our country is currently importing more food than it is producing and exporting, which puts us at the mercy of foreign countries,” he says, referring to Malaysia’s food import bill last year, which was reported at RM45.39bil. Our food export amounted to only RM27bil, leaving us with a deficit of over RM18bil. It is a heavy economic burden, and that is why the Government has been aiming at self-sufficiency for some time, he adds. Once we achieve self-sustainability in our food production, it could eventually lead to food sovereignty.


Integral to the ministry’s food sovereignty plans is the Kampung Dadong grain corn farm, a pilot project to grow Malaysia’s own feed grain. “Our animal feed bill amounts to RM5.6bil a year on average (Above picture). “Corn is the most crucial raw ingredient in the feed for our chicken, cattle, goat and fish, but we import nearly 100% of it for our use at a cost of RM3.1bil a year,” says Ahmad Shabery. By farming our own corn, he adds, we can cut our food import bill while creating a new agro-based industry ecosystem that can open up opportunities through its value chain from seed production to harvesting and processing, logistics and marketing. “Do you know, grain corn (which, unlike our regular sweet corn, is not suitable for eating) has some 260 industrial uses including pharmaceutical?” he muses, before stressing, “Our priority now, of course, is to produce enough of the grain we need to feed our livestock.” Top of that livestock list are our chickens, which he describes as one of our cheapest sources of protein. As he puts it, grain corn farming could be a long-term solution for stabilising the supply and prices of local chicken. “Currently, Malaysia’s chicken production is at 110% of self sufficiency level (SSL) but this cannot be fully guaranteed because the country still relies on imported feed for the local chicken,” he says, highlighting a recent case when Argentina’s corn supply, which accounts for 90% of the corn supply to Malaysia, was affected when floods hit the country.

Imagine if there is a war or other geopolitical disasters, says Ahmad Shabery, we will suffer, especially if we rely on imports of food production inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides, animal feed, machinery and equipment.

1. Why didn’t we go into grain corn farming before?
We don’t have a grain policy or grain board or grain projection. We have been relying almost 100% on imports, which depends on international pricing. We don’t have this policy because all this while, the belief is that it is cheaper to import. The irony is that our neighbouring countries such as Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia and even Vietnam where they have their own policy and are looking at growing corn as their second food crop after rice. Our weather is also said to be unsuitable, but why is it possible for our neighbours to grow corn? We have the same weather and the same conditions, more or less. In the Philippines, for example, corn for feed is widely grown in (the southern state of) Mindanao. If it can grow in Mindanao, why not in Sabah?. We are currently importing up to four million tonnes of corn grain worth about RM3.1bil a year. It is causing a high outflow of our currency to foreign markets; the trade deficit for Malaysia’s agro-food was RM18.1bil in 2015 and feed grain is one of the biggest contributors to the deficit with an import cost of RM5.6bil, out of which RM3.1bil is from feed corn alone. We hope to reduce the country’s dependency on imported corn grain by at least 50% in the next few years.

2. What is the ministry’s target for rolling out the grain corn-farming project?
We are currently drawing up a corn grain policy and plan with some experts from the local universities. As for the time frame, we don’t only need to prove that we can grow grain corn here, we also need to make sure that the corn is of high quality as feed for our livestock. For instance, we want chicken fed with the corn grain to grow to 2kg in 45 days. So we need time. This pilot project will take about 100 days for its first yield (expected this September) and let’s say, with further testing, it will take about a year. I think by the second year, we can expand it on a national scale. We have already earmarked paddy fields outside of the country’s rice bowl area (kawasan jelapang padi) which is estimated to be about 164,000ha wide. It will be easier to start in these areas because the land is flat and has an existing irrigation system, and you don’t need to clear it. Like in Kampung Dadong, we want to plant the grain corn as an alternate crop in their paddy fields. The farmers in Kampung Dadong usually plant paddy from February to June, and after harvest, they leave their land unused until the next year. Under the pilot project, they are planting grain corn there from June to October. This crop rotation can increase their earnings by RM1,000 per hectare. This pilot project in Kampung Dadong is about 38ha wide. We need about 400,000ha. The Government also plans to use unused land in the country, estimated to be about 120,000ha.

(One good thing) is that we don’t need a lot of investment to grow corn. If we focus on increasing the production of rice in areas outside of our rice bowl area, we will need to put in a lot of investment in building dams, developing better irrigation systems, etcetera. With grain corn in these paddy fields, we don’t need all that and it will help stem the outflow of our currency in the future and save our currency with regards to our import bill. This initiative is part of our food security policy. So far, we have only focused on the security of our carbohydrate supply or rice. We have not focussed on the security of our protein supply. The cheapest supply of protein in the country is chicken. We currently produce enough chicken for the country’s needs; in fact, the production is at 110%, allowing us to even export some. But what many don’t realise is that the chicken feed is 100% imported. Imagine if Argentina or Brazil suddenly stop exporting chicken feed, our chicken will not have food. Now some are asking why the price of chicken has gone up even though our supply of chicken is meeting our needs – it’s not a question of simple supply and demand. The price hike is due to the hike in import prices, fall of our currency, delay in the delivery, and others. We need to look at it from an agro-economics perspective.

Original info from local newspaper and published.

Rearranged by,
M Anem,
Senior Agronomist,
Kg Dadong, Kemaman,
Terengganu, Malaysia.
(Attended the official grain corn planting by Minister)

Saturday, April 8, 2017

URBAN FARMING CONSTRAINS IN MALAYSIA

The importance of Urban agriculture, urban farming or urban gardening is the practice of cultivating, processing, and distributing food in or around a village, town, or city are more popular topis nowadays. The urban agriculture can also involve animal husbandry, aquaculture, agroforestry, urban beekeeping, and horticulture. But nevetherless urban farming constraints always discussed among the players. For me, traditionally, agriculture activity is taking place in the rural area which is prone to input constraints like land factor. Urban farming also has to deal with water supply for irrigation, space for residential and farming purposes, potential hazard and is also considered harmful to agricultural inputs and outputs such as organic fertilizers, agricultural wastes, chemical residues and pollutants. In Malaysia, the population growth contributed to the increasing population density from 88 people per sq. km in 2011 to 92 people per sq. km in 2014. The most populated state in Malaysia is Selangor with 668 people per sq. km in 2010. It had increased more than three times for the past three decades excluding the capital of Kuala Lumpur. Selangor is among the important states which indicate the diversity of economics sectors in Malaysia such as services, manufacturing and agriculture. It shows the apparent constraints and crisis to harmonize between spaces and environment for human living and the spaces for food production. Therefore, the practitioners of urban farming have to share the scarcity of land and water with human needs and to choose the suitable technologies which can solve space and water problems in urban farming activities. Crops need to be fertilized in order to ensure healthy growth. There are various fertilizing techniques and methods, which can be applied to the plants. However, some of the techniques and inputs are not environmentally friendly and are very harmful to humans. There are other constraints faced by people in the practice of urban farming. Therefore, there are needs that need to be identified which include suitable fertilizer and techniques to apply in urban farming. All the suitable practices to overcome constraints are welcomed by the public. Therefore, urban farming does need the right technologies and techniques to deal with the issues.

 
Recently the urban farming technologies and techniques has been mordenised. Among the techniques used in urban farming are aeroponics, aquaponics, hydroponics, fertigation, rooftop (See above photo), and vertical farming. Aeroponics is a modern technique for growing plants in air without the use of soil. Aquaponics or also known as “pisciponics”, involves a special technique. Aquaponic's technique is a sustainable food production system that combines conventional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as fish, crayfish or prawns in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment. Hydroponics and fertigation have almost the same method that aims to ensure that the nutrients can be supplied directly to the roots of the plants and prevent root disease. Rooftop approach becomes one of the most popular techniques for quick and simple farming. In this technique, an abandoned empty roof space can be used to grow suitable crops such as tomatoes and chillies. On top of that, the vertical farming technique is categorized as very efficient as compared to conventional cultivation techniques due to crops grown vertically and more crop production using limited land space. This artice are adapted from a presented paper in urban agriculture seminar where I attended in Kuala Lumpur recently. Thanks!..


By,
M Anem,
Senior Agronomist,
13th Floor, Condominium Anggerik,
Seri Kembangan, Selangor,
Malaysia.
(4 Rejab 1438H)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

SOME TIPS OF GROWING CHILI IN MALAYSIA

Growing Chillies in Malaysia and other tropical countries are common. In Malaysia about 2,900 hectare of chili was grown anually for fresh consumption especially for Red Chili (Cili Besar). Chili was planted all year round but during monsoon season it will les grown due to flood. Chilies are in the same family as tomatoes and potatoes. They are grown for their fruits, which are usually picked when green. From my observation to many cili farms in Malaysia although they can be left to turn red on the bush, which usually takes about another 2 to 3 weeks. Red chili sold at double or trople proces from green chilies. They are best picked green as leaving them on the plant until red will not improve on the flavour. Chillis will grow in similar conditions to tomatoes although better results are achieved in higher temperatures and humidity. A better crop will be achieved by growing under glass, although they can be cultivated outdoors in sheltered sites with plenty of sun. This article in Anim Agro Technology I would like to share about some tips in growing chili.

Sowing Chilli Seeds is an important activities prior to planting in the farms. The seeds need to be sown in 1 inch pots with 2 to 3 seeds in each and thinly covered in compost. Germination can then take up to 4 to 6 weeks in a temperature of 70F, although the majority of seeds germinate in about the first 2 weeks. As soon as the seedlings are large enough to handle, prick them out into individual 3 inch pots discarding any weak plants and give them a potash liquid feed to maintain growth. The plants will still need a temperature of about 60F, so will need to be kept indoors or a heated greenhouse. After about 12 weeks they should now be large enough to transplant into 10 inch pots which can now be placed in an unheated greenhouse or outdoors, if weather is suitable, about 12 inches apart. Now weather and variety depending, they will grow to about 24 inches high or slightly higher in a greenhouse although they should be encouraged to bush out by pinching out the growing tip when 4 to 6 inches tall. Always keep well watered if grown in pots or growing bags as they tend to dry out fairly quickly, more so than if planted straight into the ground, erratic watering will lead to problems such as blossom end rot or cracking of fruits. Mist plants regularly to keep down pests and encourage fruit set. Once fruit has set a nitrogen liquid feed will be necessary with each watering, also some kind of support may be necessary to attach stems to depending on size.

Harvesting Chillies is the most happy hours for chili farmers. Chillies should be ready for picking after about 5 to 8 months depending on location and temperatures although outdoor growing may need up to another 8 weeks. Cut chillis when they are green, swollen and glossy, any ripe unpicked chillis left on the plant will turn red within 2 to 3 weeks. Picked chillis will stay fresh for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator if kept in a sealed container. When using some of the hotter chillis they are best prepared wearing gloves when removing the seeds and inner pith, as any contact with the skin afterwards will cause burning when you touch your face or other any other delicate parts which is inevitable and washing with water afterwards will not remedy the situation. With a good harvest bag the chillis up and freeze them, or if weather is good enough dry them out in the sun, although I have had good results spreading them out on a baking tray and placing on top of a boiler. In Malaysia fresh chilies are plucked and harvested manually. It will be graded, packed and sent to the supermarket or other marketing outlets. The farm price ranged from as low at RM2.00 per kilogram to RM12.00 perkilogram depending on the weather, supply and demand and also festival. Malaysian government impose control prices for food items during local festival including chilies. 


Pest and Diseases are not common in growing chilies espesialy in tropical area such in Malaysia. Aphids (greenfly and blackfly) chillis should be checked regularly for their presence and any infestation should be dealt with by spraying with dimethoate, derris or malathion. If the chillis are ready for picking use derris. Aphis are also the carrier for bacteria disease that scared the farmers. Red spider mite are the common pest in the greenhouse in hot dry conditions, causing leaf discoloration and affecting growing adversely. Spraying weekly with dimethoate and malathion can control the problem as well as creating a damp atmosphere. Third pest are known asa Whitefly with various species of whitefly may attack the chillis causing a black deposit of sooty mould on the leaves. Try controlling with 3 to 4 sprays of pyrethum, permetmrin or pirimiphos-methyl every week. Other pproblem in growing chilies are the attack of Grey mould occurs when an irregular watering may cause brown sunken areas on the chillis which will in turn go soft and mouldy. Always keep chilli plants well spaced, well ventilated and well watered, always removing dead or dying plants leaves or stems. Sometimes the leaves turn yellowing and it normally due to nutrient deficiency, give the plants a liquid feed such as seaweed. Growing chili are interesting for those staying in urban area for own consumption. Thanks.

By,
M Anem,
Senior Agronomist,
Fertigation Chli,
Kuantan, Pahang,
Malaysia.
(12 April 2017)

Monday, April 3, 2017

FAQ - WHAT IS URBAN AGRICULTURE?


​What is urban agriculture?Urban agriculture can be defined shortly as the growing of plants and the raising of animals within and around cities. The most striking feature of urban agriculture, which distinguishes it from rural agriculture, is that it is integrated into the urban economic and ecological system: urban agriculture is embedded in -and interacting with- the urban ecosystem. Such linkages include the use of urban residents as labourers, use of typical urban resources (like organic waste as compost and urban wastewater for irrigation), direct links with urban consumers, direct impacts on urban ecology (positive and negative), being part of the urban food system, competing for land with other urban functions, being influenced by urban policies and plans, etc. Urban agriculture is not a relict of the past that will fade away (urban agriculture increases when the city grows) nor brought to the city by rural immigrants that will lose their rural habits over time. It is an integral part of the urban system. In each city a further specification of urban agriculture is possible by looking at the following dimensions:

1. Types of actors involvedLarge part of the people involved in urban agriculture is the urban poor. Contrary to general belief they are often not recent immigrants from rural areas (since the urban farmer needs time to get access to urban land, water and other productive resources). In many cities, one will often also find lower and mid-level government officials, school teachers and the like involved in agriculture, as well as richer people who are seeking a good investment for their capital.
Women constitute an important part of urban farmers, since agriculture and related processing and selling activities, among others, can often be more easily combined with their other tasks in the household. It is however more difficult to combine it with urban jobs that require travelling to the town centre, industrial areas or to the houses of the rich.

2.  Types of locationUrban agriculture may take place in locations inside the cities (intra-urban) or in the peri-urban areas. The activities may take place on the homestead (on-plot) or on land away from the residence (off-plot), on private land (owned, leased) or on public land (parks, conservation areas, along roads, streams and railways), or semi-public land (schoolyards, grounds of schools and hospitals).

3.  Types of products grownUrban agriculture includes food products, from different types of crops (grains, root crops, vegetables, mushrooms, fruits) and animals (poultry, rabbits, goats, sheep, cattle, pigs, guinea pigs, fish, etc.) as well as non-food products (like aromatic and medicinal herbs, ornamental plants, tree products, etc.) or combinations of these. Often the more perishable and relatively high-valued vegetables and animal products and by-products are favoured.
Production units in urban agriculture in general tend to be more specialised than rural enterprises, and exchanges are taking place across production units.

4.  Types of economic activitiesUrban agriculture includes agricultural production activities as well as related processing and marketing activities as well as inputs (e.g. compost) and services delivery (e.g. animal health services) by specialised micro-enterprises or NGOs, etc.  In urban agriculture, production and marketing tend to be more closely interrelated in terms of time and space than for rural agriculture, thanks to greater geographic proximity and quicker resource flow. Product destination or degree of market orientation. In most cities in developing countries, an important part of urban agricultural production is for self-consumption, with surpluses being traded. However, the importance of the market-oriented urban agriculture, both in volume and economic value, should not be underestimated (as will be shown later). Products are sold at the farm gate, by cart in the same or other neighbourhoods, in local shops, on local (farmers) markets or to intermediaries and supermarkets. Mainly fresh products are sold, but part of it is processed for own use, cooked and sold on the streets, or processed and packaged for sale to one of the outlets mentioned above.

5.  Scales of production and technology usedIn the city, we may encounter individual or family farms, group or cooperative farms and commercial enterprises at various scales ranging from micro- and small farms (the majority) to medium-sized and some large-scale enterprises.
The technological level of the majority of urban agriculture enterprises in developing countries is still rather low. However, the tendency is towards more technically advanced and intensive agriculture and various examples of such can be found in all cities.

Thanks for the reading about some Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) about urban agriculture that are the importants topic discussed in Malaysia recently. Department of Agriculture through Urban Agriculture Division located at Wisma Tani, 7th Floor, Putrajaya are ready to answer the FAQ about urban agriculture in Malaysia. Thanks!..

By,
M Anem,
Senior Agronomist,
17th Floor, Director General of Agriculture Office,
Putrajaya, Malaysia.
(5 March 2017)

Saturday, April 1, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR - URBAN FARMING

 
IS URBAN FARMING in Kuala Lumpus are relevant topics these today?. Kuala Lumpur offers a mono-season much of the year round, with plenty of sunshine and plenty of water(haze notwithstanding) and the rainfall. This gives it an advantage in growing all sorts of plants throughout the year. On the flipside, the topsoil in the tropical region tends to be quite thin and can wash away quickly after rain, which is a bit of a challenge when trying to grow things in a field, though not so much if you are just planting in pots at home. Due to space limitations in the city, urban agriculturalists often resort to creative ways to grow food. One notable method is rooftop gardening, exploiting the unused rooftops of one’s house that have the best access to rain and sunlight. Indoors, many have now set up hydroponic systems, which use mineral solutions to grow plants and no soil, or aquaponic systems, which use fish to also provide nutrients to plants in a connected loop. Some expats interested in taking up urban gardening should look into studying permaculture, an ecological design method pioneered in Australia in the 1970s. The principles of permaculture necessitate creating systems that are sustainable, using minimal outside resources and practical to implement. Permaculture can lend itself easily to urban settings as much as rural. KL’s urban farming movement is still waiting to pick up the pace, but there are a few trailblazers who are making their mark already. Here are some examples of organizations that have dedicated their time to making us all a bit more green.
 
Urban Hijau is more than just a simple garden, it is an attempt to be a real-life showcase of sustainability in the middle of the city. Located in Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI), this social enterprise manages a unique half-acre acre site that produces organic fruits and vegetables for the wider community while educating them about the practices of permaculture. Located in Bangsar, the Free Tree Society was started in 2012 for a special purpose. The society plants seeds and nurtures them into healthy seedlings before giving them for free to the public. The society arranges special give-away days where they gift hundreds of seedlings to the community in an attempt to beautify the suburban and urban environment.  Eats, Shoots & Roots is a social enterprise with an expertise for organic gardening and a mission to pass this knowledge to the wider community. They conduct workshops, courses and consultancies to suit all sorts of clients interested in further greening themselves, from homes to businesses. Expats with a fascination for the green side of life may want to consider buying a simple set of tools and planting a few pots at home first. Nothing beats the feeling of cooking a hearty meal with veggies that came from your own garden.

Growing food is usually a bit more challenging than just putting a seed in the soil and expecting it to sprout. Some basics of planting are making sure you water the soil in the early morning rather than evening, watering sufficiently without flooding the soil, and making sure the soil is healthy enough for the seed to grow. Compost is the most vital supplement you can give your soil to ensure its ongoing health. Compost gives your plants essential nutrients and retains moisture to allow microorganisms to thrive. Using simple things such as recycled kitchen waste or yard waste can contribute to potent compost. For more details, get in touch with a local gardening or farming professional who can give some guidance. Hopefully when your colleagues ask you about your next weekend plans, forget the art exhibit or movie screening, tell them you plan to get some dirt under your fingernails at the farm!. Thanks for reading this article.
By,
M Anem,
Senior Agronomist,
Precint 11, Putrajaya,
Malaysia.
(6 Rejab 1438H)

Friday, March 31, 2017

STUDY ON BANANA CULTIVAR IN MALAYSIA


BANANA (Musa paradisaca) are among popular fruit grown in Malaysia. The Department of Agricullture reported about 30,320 hectare of banana were grown in 2016 producing estimated o 310,320 metric tonnes of fresh fruits. Recently an efforts are underway to revive our low number of fruit cultivars by Research Agencies in Malaysia. If we visit any night market, fruit shop or supermarket and chances are you will find very few varieties of bananas being sold. For a crop that has been cultivated since ancient times in Malaysia (reputedly its place of origin), the lack of choice is surprising. A myriad of local species used to be available, but not anymore. A random check at two hypermarkets revealed only two choices: the imported Cavendish and the local pisang berangan. The future scenario appears bleak for our local banana cultivars, which are not only up against foreign competition - in the form of the hardy and unblemished Cavendish - but also against other more profitable and productive crops. The problem is not just confined to bananas. Other fruits like pineapples and mangoes, too, suffer from dwindling varieties. As farmers focus on growing only the best breeds for maximum yield, the challenge lies in the hands of the Malaysian Agricultural Research And Development Institute (Mardi) to stimulate research and conservation work to sustain diversity of these crops, and to ensure that a wealth of genetic resources exist for breeding quality and high-performing varieties.

In Malaysia, banana varieties like berangan, mas, rastali and Cavendish are used in cookery while nipah, nangka, tanduk and pisang awak are used in desserts. These edible cultivars are derived from two wild species, Musa acuminata Colla and Musa balbisiana Colla. (The Musa acuminata is reportedly the most variable species and progenitor of cultivated bananas.) The commercial success of Cavendish, which dominates supermarket shelves, has a lot to do with promotion. For a fruit to do well, he says it has to meet consumers’ expectations and acceptance - the fruit must not just look good but taste good. The fruit’s features are as important as the quality, which means that for us to be competitive, we need to research and extract value-added properties like possible medicinal values. After that, we look into the yield, or how easy it is to plant and harvest, before domesticating it and planting it commercially. The technology to screen for genes responsible for certain elements or quality, as well as for pest- and disease-resistant traits. We also have a seed unit that produces high quality foundation seeds and planting materials for our research programmes.”
The production sites are located at Mardi stations in Serdang, Sintok (Kedah), Kuala Kangsar (Perak), Jerangau (Terengganu), Jelebu (Negri Sembilan), Kelang (Selangor) and Bintulu (Sarawak). In the case of mangoes, the Department of Agriculture has registered 77 varieties and 209 clones to date, though only a few clones are popular for commercial planting - chokanan, harum manis, golek, maha and mas muda. The common mango, Mangifera indica, is the only widely cultivated species, though there are several other lesser-known species like the Mangifera odorata (kuini), Mangifera foetida (bacang) and Mangifera caesia (binjai). This article was adapted from news paper about banana. Thanks.

By,
M Anem,
Senior Agronomist,
Serdang Agriculture Station,
Selangor, Malaysia.
(Febuary 2017)