Farms in Laura have successfully collaborated with the College of Micronesia and College of the Marshall Islands for sustainable and commercial cultivation of pineapples. Including the Taiwan Technical Mission and local farmers Jabukja Aikne and Foster Lanwe based in Lomar village of Laura, more than 2,000 pineapple plants have been successfully brought to the RMI for research and cultivation activities.
Dr. Virendra Verma, researcher and project director at the Micronesia Plant Propagation Research Center at the College of Micronesia, leads an integrated research project in the region. It is the first of its kind in the Pacific region approved by the US Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture on pineapple micro-propagation and commercial cultivation to enhance productivity in Micronesia, which includes the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, and Marshall islands.
The two varieties grown on Majuro are the Kosrean and Hawaiian types, but the tissues of these pineapples are specially cultured in the center’s lab to clean them of all diseases and pathogens as well as to make them stronger. With the latest technology the lab does not need any seeds but only a few cells and they can make shoot, root, and any other part of the plant. Plants are cloned to look exactly like the parent, which is selected for being the most healthy and strong. Verma also says that they screen cells that are salt-tolerant to make plants that can grow well in an atoll environment.
Within the Micronesia region the plants and seeds are given for free. In exchange for this, farmers such as those in Majuro only have to collect data and send it to Verma. The farmers are free to sell, eat, or replant the pineapples on their farms. Verma, who worked in the early 2000s at CMI’s former tissue culture lab and worked on cultivating other plants such as taro for Majuro, Ebeye and the outer islands, comes to RMI three or four times a year to conduct trainings.
Aikne, who maintains his farm himself, just planted two new rows of pineapples in his field. The advantage of field versus pot planting is that you can harvest up to three times in the field, but only once in the pot. On Lanwe’s farm, he utilizes tires and coconut husks that maintain the humidity of the plants, while Taiwan Technical Mission, which also has all local workers, is experimenting on growing theirs under a greenhouse for maximum control of exposure to elements such as the rain and sun.
There are three pilot sites in Micronesia, specifically in FSM and RMI, that are “being developed as demonstration sites to carry out research, outreach and education activities of the project to encourage and promote sustainable commercial pineapple production among local farmers in the region,” Verma said. In this way the project allows for income generation and profitable self-employment, thus encouraging others to adopt sustainable, climate-smart and organic commercial pineapple production practices, Verma added.
Read more about this in the June 7, 2019 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.