June 2019 Asia Agriculture, Seed Industry News

  [caption id="attachment_14203" align="alignleft" width="300"] Simon N. Groot (left) with other members of East-West Seeds management board, addresses a crowd at the company's recent Field Day event. Mr. Groot was in June honored as World Food Laureate, agknowledging his accomplishments in addressing world hunger. See Inter-regional news for more info.[/caption] ASIA SEED INDUSTRY NEWS, JUNE 2019: Following are summaries covering news, developments, breakthroughs and commentary from the seed, agriculture and farming industries throughout the APSA region, including leads from Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India,  Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea,  Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand,  Pakistan, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam.  [expand title="Inter-regional"]  Fall Armyworm spreads to South China Sea: As featured in the 2019 Q2 issue of Asian Seed Magazine, the Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) has reached Asia and is spreading rapidly, with detection of the pest confirmed in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand and southern China. Even as the issue was going to press, detection was most recently confirmed in the Philippines and several islands off the coast of China.
  • Focustaiwan.tw reports that the Council of Agriculture (COA) has confirmed detection in June of Fall Armyworm moths, eggs and pupil in the offshore islands of Kinmen, Matsu and Penghu, as well as in Hsinchu, Miaoli, Chiayi, Pingtung and Hualien counties of Chinese Taipei.  According to the report, there have been a total of 68 detections of the larval form of the crop-eating insect in Taiwanese counties since the first sighting was confirmed in a corn field in Miaoli County on June 10. Among the control efforts being employed include spraying of pesticides, setting up pheromone traps and destroying infected crops, as seen in this video taken in Changhua County. 
  • Armyworm detected in the Philippines: According to a June 15 report by reliefweb, a “State of Calamity” has been declared in 18 barangays (wards or villages) in they municipality of Mabinay in the Philippine’s Negros Oriental province. These 18 barangays are among 28 in the city where detection of the armyworm has been confirmed: (There are a total of 32 barangays in Mabinay). Under Calamity status, the barangays can tap into “calamity fund to buy chemicals, sprayers, drums, and seeds, among others.”. 
In related pest news, desert locusts (Schistocerca gregaria) are wreaking havoc on field and horticulture crops in West and South Asia, having spread from Africa to Suadia Arabia and Iran earlier this year, now reaching farmland in Pakistan and India. According to Al Jazeera, the pest, which is believed to have originated in Africa,was detected in Saudi Arabia and Iran in February. By March, swarms had been detected in Pakistan’s  Balochistan and by April and May was threatening as much as 200,000 acres of cotton crops in Sindh Province.  A Deccan Herald report confirmed that the desert locust had made it to India by May.  The Times of India on June 3 reported that the pests were first spotted in Jodphur in dozens of places, prompting a pesticide spraying campaign that was reported to have contained further spread there.   Among the reasons cited for the region-wide proliferation of the pest include increased rainfall and wind.  Speaking of extreme weather in the Indo-Pakistani border region, many locales in the Kashmir valley region spanning north India and Pakistan in June witnessed "rare but not unusual" summer snowfall and heavy rain. A report by the Times of India cites rare summer snowfall and cold weather affecting Baltal, Sonamarg, Zojila Pass, Drass, Minimarg, Gumri Zojila Pass, Drass Kargin, Zero Point and Gilgit-Baltistan. Another report by The Hindustan Times notes that unseasonable weather in the form of snowfall and heavy rains poses flood threats. especially in the lower in the Kashmir valley. Affected locales cited in that report include Kargil, Zojilla and Zanskar, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim. In stark contrast to cold and wet weather reports, parts of north and central India have been suffering from an extreme and extended heat wave, which is reported to have been responsible for 49 deaths in the state of Bihar, reports Khaleej Times. And though the onset of monsoon rains has been delayed in much of central and west India, and thus affecting kharif season planting,  the replenishing systems appear to be back on track for July planting. (See India and Pakistan sections below for more news on monsoon patterns and Kharif planting) Access to Seeds has published a Synthesis report, which includes comprehensive summaries and evaluations of its project and respective findings. The Index measures and compares the efforts of the world's leading seed companies to enhance the productivity of smallholder farmers, with a focus on several key regions: Southeast and South Asia; Latin America; Eastern and Southern Africa; and West and Central Africa; Download report here   IRRI publishes 2018 Annual Report, including planning, strategies and project summaries. Download the report here   Simon N. Groot awarded World Food Prize: Sixth-generation Dutch seedsman, Simon N. Groot -- the founder of East-West Seed and a founding member of APSA -- was named the 2019 World Food Prize Laureate, one of the most prestigious honors in the seed, agriculture and food industries. According to a June 10 announcement by the World Food Foundation,  “.. this $250,000 prize honors Mr. Groot’s unparalleled achievements as the founder and leader of East-West Seed. His initiative over the past four decades has developed a dynamic, smallholder-centric tropical vegetable seed industry, starting in Southeast Asia and spreading through Asia, Africa and Latin America. Today East-West Seed serves over 20 million smallholder farmers in more than 60 tropical countries” For more information and video, see EWS link.  To read about Mr. Groot’s story in a special feature in Asian Seed, see pages 32 and 33 of Volume 23, Issue no. 6 here Asian Seed will also feature more on Mr. Groot's achievements and awards in the near future.  Russia to develop gene-edited crops, animals: Barley, sugar beet, wheat and potatoes are the main focus crops to be developed under a Russian government biotechnology plan aiming for 10 new varieties of gene-edited crops and animals by 2020, reports Nature.com. The program, which is backed by funds to the tune of 11-billion-rouble (US$1.7-billion), is a welcome move for plant breeding innovation advocates, as it suggests that some gene-edited products could be exempt from a Russian law passed in 2016 that prohibits the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) organisms, except for research purposes.  Return to top [/expand] [expand title="Australia"] Sex-fluid Australian bush tomato finally gets name: The New York Times reports on a recently published comprehensive study of a previously unnamed Australian bush tomato that has baffled botanists for at least 40 years. The study, published June 18 in the open journal, Phyto Keys, was conducted by Australian and American researchers who looked into the unique sexual morphology of the spiny bush tomato found in a small tropical monsoon region of the Northern Territory. Until recently, the plant had evaded classification due to its confusing sexual nature of displaying at least three different breeding systems -- andromonoecy (with a perfect flower as well as staminate flowers on the same plant), hermaphroditism (with perfect flowers) and functional dioecy (with normal staminate flowers and/or staminate flowers that effectively function as female flowers). Due to such unique sexual morphology characteristics, the tomato has been tentatively named Solanum Plastisexum. The researchers have proposed the common name to be Dungowan Bush Tomato, after the cattle station where a majority of collections of the plant were made.  Dozens of plants feared to have gone extinctPhys.org reports on recent studies conducted by the Threatened Species Recovery Hub that documented at least 38 plants that are thought to have gone extinct some time in the past 170 years. Among them include Daintree River banana (Musa fitzalanii) and the fringed spider-orchid (Caladenia thysanochila). Land clearing for agriculture and urbanization are thought to be primary factors. The article also highlights that, in Australia, “more than 1,600 plants were discovered between 2009 and 2015, and an estimated 10% are still yet to be discovered.” Aus ag authority optimistic about grain production recovery, pending the rain: Grain Central has summarized forecasts, opportunities and challenges for Australian winter grain production and trade, citing the ABARES’ June quarter Agricultural Commodities Report released on June 18, with some highlights as follows:  
  • Average to above average rainfall and an improvement in soil moisture levels across large areas of south-eastern Australia and the cropping region of central Queensland have provided a better start to this season’s winter crop compared with the same period last year.
  • Given adequate rainfall, Australia’s grain production could increase by 20 pecent to 36.4 million tonnes this season, which would be 10% below the 10-year average.
  • High import tariffs introduced by China on US agricultural goods are providing some Australian exporters with a competitive advantage over the US. 
  • Low winter crop production across Australia’s eastern states in 2018–19 has reduced the availability of grain for domestic consumption and led to increased prices.
  • The 2019–20 winter cropping season has had a mixed start and the chance of a positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) event developing has increased, which could result in below average winter–spring rainfall in central and south-eastern Australia.
  • Australian wheat production is expected to increase 22% over the drought affected 2018–19 crop.
  • Average to above average autumn rains are forecast in Victoria, South Australia and southern New South Wales, which is expected would lead to relatively high prices for barley and oats compared with alternatives.
  • For the first time since 2006, a number of bulk grain import permits for high-protein Canadian milling wheat were issued in May 2019
Queensland southern ‘salad bowl’ suffering from drought as floods prevail in north: According to ABC Australia, more than 65% of the state of Queensland -- mostly in the southern part of the state --  is suffering from drought, which for one farmer is the “worst in living memory”, prompting that capsicum and tomato farmer to spend $800,000 carting in water to supply his crops. One watermelon and ginger farmer near Bundaberg, has shifted from paddocks to greenhouses so as to better utilize limited water resources through controlled cultivation. In stark contrast, farmers in the northern part of the state, have been dealing with heavy monsoon rains resulting in flooding and soil "too wet to plant".  The state reportedly earns as much as A$350 million annually from fruits and vegetables.  Next-generation quarantine screening for horticulture crops: The Queensland University of Technology, in partnership with the Plant Biosecurity Research Initiative, plan to advance the use of next-generation, high-throughput technologies for quarantine screening of pathogens in some horticulture crops. As reported by Mirage News, the initiative, which is being carried out in cooperation with the Victorian Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions, the Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, and the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries, promises to drastically reduce the time it takes to screen for pathogens in plant genetic stocks from as much as three years -- using current screening protocol -- to as little as six months. Next-generation screening methods have already been developed and used for inbound “ornamental grasses” -- a single assay test was developed for use by the Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in quarantine screening, which replaces multiple required using conventional methods. As for applying the new methods in horticulture crops, focus will initially be on grapes, citrus fruits, berries and potatoes, and expand to other crops at a later stage. *Note: quarantine requirements for plant material is not necessarily the same as that for seeds -- the latter of which is covered by ISPM 38. Stay tuned for more coverage of developments for both seeds and other plant genetic stock in the region.   Return to top [/expand] [expand title="Bangladesh"] President, PM call for more fruit tree planting: Dhaka Tribune reported that both President M Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina have each appealed to Sri Lankan nationals to plant more fruit trees so as to attain economic self-reliance. The appeals came in separate messages from the leaders issued on the occasion of "Fruit Tree Planting Fortnight" from June 16 to 30, and "National Fruit Fair" from June 16 to 18. The Prime Minister’s appeal was also covered by The Daily Star, which quoted her in a speech to mark World Environment Day.     Contract wheat seed farmers protest low price: The Daily Star reports that wheat seed farmers are unhappy about the price the Bangladesh Agriculture Development Corporation (BADC) has offered for their seeds this year, which they say is lower than it should be according to the previous year. BADC has reportedly fixed the procurement price for foundation wheat seeds at Tk 32 per kg (about $0.38), which they think should be at least Tk 36.4 per kg ($0.43). In contrast, the government’s fixed price is Tk 28/kg ($0.33).  Planting Paddy Protest: Students in the village of Paikpara village of Thakurgaon have planted a muddy road with paddy to protest the inaction of officials to pave a village road, reports the Dhaka Tribune. Locals claim the road is impassable when it rains and have waited for many years for officials to pave the road, but to no avail. To make a statement, the students decided to plant paddy on the road, which much more resembles a muddy rice plot. Return to top [/expand] [expand title="Cambodia"] Govt gives green light for bamboo, rattan network national office: Legislators in Cambodia have passed a bill to approve the establish a national office under the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan or INBAR, reports the Phnom Penh Post. Cambodia is one of only four ASEAN states yet to join the intergovernmental organization which is headquartered in Beijing. The other three are Brunei, Laos and Singapore. INBAR, which is focused on improving and developing products from the two fibrous and woody plants, has regional-level offices in Cameroon, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Ghana and India.  Khmer empire history lessons and mitigating drought for agriculture: A report by Relief Web highlights various initiatives in Cambodia to mitigate drought through monitoring and irrigation infrastructure development. The report’s introduction recaps interesting lessons from the fall of the Khmer empire, suggesting a link with past and present climate change.  Return to top [/expand] [expand title="China"] China’s ‘Great Green Wall’ to be built by space seeds: ECNS.CN reports on efforts to build a 4,500-kilometer-long forest belt in northern China using selected “superior seeds”  primed in space. The seeds, which undergo mutations after being exposed to low temperatures and high radiation over a few days in space’s orbit, are finally screened and selected at a space breeding center in Shaanxi province, where scientists plan to cultivate 22 crop and tree species over the next five years. Some 6,000 seeds have been sent into orbit over the past 30 years, which has reportedly resulted in 230 varieties with superior abiotic stress tolerance. Efforts are also underway to develop ground-based space simulations so as to reduce the high expense of developing such seeds.  Shenzhen Customs intercept broccoli seed smuggling attempt:  According to a Chinese language news report, Shenzhen Customs officials attached to the Huanggang Port, seized 50 packets of broccoli seeds contained in boxes and weighing a total of 32 kilograms. Upon further inspection, officials found that the coated seeds did not have Chinese quarantine approval documents, or a required phytosanitary certificate from their undisclosed foreign origin, and subsequently seized the seeds and sent them to a lab for further testing.  Xingang Customs intercept quarantine pest in Danish seeds: Xinhua.net reports that Xingang Customs officials, attached to Tianjin Customs, has for the first time detected a quarantine pest in a batch of ryegrass seeds from Denmark. During an on-site quarantine inspection of a batch of seeds weighing 21 tonnes, officials detected seeds of brome grass (Bromus rigidus Roth), which is a quarantine pest in China. The article also notes that Xingang Customs has inspected a total of 667 batches of seeds in the first five months of this year, of which 263 were found to contain harmful pests.  Fake’ corn seeds bust in Nanchong City: Sina.com reports that officials have seized some 10.8 tonnes of counterfeit seeds worth an estimated 200,000 yuan. An inspection that confirmed violation of several clauses of the Seed Act -- including operating without required permits and falsely labeling seed packets -- resulted in the seizure of the counterfeit seeds as well as the arrest of the suspect.  Yichun city agriculture report: A Chinese language report published by Yichun City reveals some figures as follows: The total sown area of ​​crops in the city this year is expected to reach 3.626 million mu (about 241,733 hectares), which includes ​​480,400 mu for corn;  ​​2.23 million mu for soybean; and 733,800 mu for rice. As of the end of March, the city had allocated 824 million yuan for spring ploughing funds, covering everything from agriculture loans to supplementing the cost of inputs, including fertilizer, seeds and pesticides.   Return to top [/expand] [expand title="India"] 32nd ISTA Congress: The 2019 ISTA Congress is being held in Hyderabad India 26 June to 3 July. The Congress’ seed symposium is themed “Seed technology and quality in a changing world”, and “will bring together seed analysts, technologists, researchers and managers from universities, research institutes, government and the seed trade to discuss all aspects of seed quality.” According to The Hindu Business Online, the Congress, which is co-organized by ISTA, The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare and the Telangana government, will be attended by “scientists, policy makers and industry representatives from the UK, South Africa, Argentina, New Zealand, Canada and Austria.”    APSA’s Director Dr. Kanokwan Chodchoey is attending and on June 25 participated in a pre-event workshop, entitled “Seed Production, Quality Control & Marketing”. Dr. Kanokwan was represented on a nine-person panel discussion on  “South-South Seed Sector Partnership: The Way Forward”. In a report by by Telangana Today, the Telangan government appealed for support from the FAO to help the state realize its potential and ambitions to become the “seed bowl of the world”.  Stay tuned for more details about the discussion and ISTA Congress. .   ICAR chief praises Indian agricultural strides in face of strides ahead: Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) director-general Trilochan Mohapatra on June 17 addressed an audience at the 32nd annual convocation of the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad (UAS-D) in the state of Karnataka. As reported by theindu.com, in his speech to graduates and faculty, Dr. Mohapartra  revealed some telling figures, challenges and solutions, highlighting how far India has come in the past seven decades thanks to several ‘revolutions’, while suggesting a strategic path forward Among the highlights from his speech: 
  1. India produces 280 million tonnes of foodgrains annually, nearly 100 million of which is wheat;
  2. India has become self sufficient in sugar production, with annual demand now at 35 million tonnes
  3. Indian horticulture production has reached 315 million tonnes, while milk production is at about 176 million tonnes; pulses and millet production is growing and currently at about 18 million tonnes, combined; Aside from feeding high domestic demand, India is already supplying these important foodstuffs to many other countries.
  4. Such achievements have been possible  thanks to “intervention of innovative technologies in agriculture.”
  5. Soil degradation and climate change, especially irregular rain patterns pose challenges for farmers
  6. In order to double farmers incomes as per govt strategy, ICAR is working with state governments to promote the integration of agriculture, horticulture, fisheries and dairy farming under one collaborative roof of academic institutions.
  7. Rain harvesting is one necessary way to address limited water resources, since an estimated 70% of rainfall is wasted as runoff to the sea
Solar power water irrigation to the rescue: CNN Business reports on the successful business model of one company who is empowering farmers to irrigate their crops using photo-voltaic powered pumps. Khetworks, a company which has origins at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and  is based in the city of Pune, about 150km southeast of Mumbai, sells and installs systems for about $540, which eliminates the need for farmers to buy fuel to pump water using traditional methods, and thus can provide a return on investment in as little as three to four years.  According to the report, solar energy is booming in India, with nationwide capacity having grown from less than four gigawatts in 2015 to almost 30 gigawatts presently, and plans to increase this to 100 gigawatts by 2022.  Farmers grow GM seeds as an ‘act of civil disobedience: According to a report by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) more than a thousand farmers in the state of Maharashtra have launched a campaign of civil disobedience by planting genetically-modified cotton and eggplant (brinjal) seeds, openly and without government approval. The farmers, including some in Haryana, risk fines of 100,000 rupees, or $1,400, as well as the destruction of their crops. It is estimated that as much as 10% of cotton grown in India last year was grown from illegal GM seeds. The farmers are reportedly doing so to protest their government for “blocking access to some of the safest, most sustainable, productive seeds in the history of agriculture.” … and because they believe that the government is denying “their right to choose and innovate.”  According to a report by the Indian Express, the campaign was organized by a farmers union, Shetkari Sanghtana, which is associated with a similar campaign 20 years ago that is credited to have been a factor in the approval of Bt cotton, which is the only GM-crop currently permitted in India. Lychee seeds, flesh suspected to be linked to children deaths: The Independent UK reports on investigations in the state of Bihar of the mysterious death of no less than 43 children dying during a recent two-week period coinciding with the lychee harvest. The children were among some 150 who had been admitted to hospital with doctors pinning the deaths to hypoglycaemia, or low blood sugar level, which is a condition that has been linked to acute encephalitis syndrome or AES. According to a previous study, such cases of AES are suspected, but not yet confirmed to be caused by a toxin called MCPA, that is thought to be found in lychee seeds and flesh.  Indian ‘plant doctor’ claims breakthrough against papaya ring spot virus: Independent scientist, Dr. Vasanth Kumar, who is Technical Director at Green Lifescience Technologies, claims to have developed an effective formulation agains the papaya ring spot virus. He has set up a demonstration plot at his Bhoodevi Farm in Paduvaralli, Mysuru, where he invites interested agriculturalists, pathologists and researchers to come and review his breakthrough, reports Star of Mysore.   Odisha seed saver honored with Padma Shri honor for conservation efforts: Rural India Online reports that Kamala Pujhari had been bestowed the prestigious Padma Shri award in recognition for her work in paddy seed conservation. The article recalls her story going back four decades ago when her community use to cultivate dozens of indigenous varieties until newer, higher-yielding hybrids entered the scene, which gradually saw the decline in indigenous varieties. Seeing this, Kamala begin locating and collecting landrace seeds, which she would store in local seed banks and cultivate on her own land. Thanks to her efforts over the years, many indigenous varieties have been preserved.    Kharif planting delayed in absent of monsoons: According to the New Indian Expres, kharif or rainy season planting in the State of Andra Pradesh is between three-to-four weeks behind schedule due to delayed onset of the monsoons, with mid-June figures cited showing that planting in rain-dependent areas was about half the area compared to the previous four years.  Nonetheless, the monsoons had reportedly gained momentum towards the end of June in about half of the country, creating ideal conditions for planting, with a Hindu Business Online report making specific references to Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.  In contrast, incidents of excess rain in northwest India have cited concern for the spread of fungal diseases in horticulture crops, as outlined in this report, and as previously noted in section above about the spread of the desert locust in Indo-Pakistan border areas.  Rel. Increasing green cover in MP with seed balls, read about it here Return to top [/expand] [expand title="Indonesia"]   Pineapples for fire-free peatlands: The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) reports on the success of one of their projects to restore swathes of Indonesia’s peatlands, which were ravaged by fires in 2015. The project, titled “Community-Based Fire Prevention and Peatland Restoration, features seven “action arenas”, which each span between three to four hectares in area, where community groups are now cultivating a variety of crops, including coffee, rubber, coconut and pineapple. On one such action arena, a women farmers’ group planted 10,000 pineapple plants in five days. Core to the project is CIFOR raising environmental awareness, training farmers in land preparation and agro-forest techniques and principles that reduce the likelihood of future fires, while providing a source of income. Indonesia aims to boost coffee exports to Marseille: An Indonesian trade officially recently visited the Henry Blanc coffee industry in Marseille, France, revealing ambition to increase the export of Indonesian coffee beans to southern France, reports Antaranews.com      Return to top [/expand] [expand title="Israel"]   Thieves plundering crops: The Jerusalem Post reports that field pirates are rampant, citing cases of thieves stealing avocado and watermelon crops in the midst of the night. The stolen booty is claimed to be turned over to buyers at lower-than-market-value prices, and thus having a significant economic impact. The report suggests that thieves may target grape crops next as authorities increase surveillance.     Return to top [/expand] [expand title="Japan"] Govt looks to curb outflow of high-end Japanese fruits: The Japan Times reports that the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry is looking to curtail outflows of “domestically developed high-end fruit varieties”. Among the measures being considered include stricter regulations and revision of the relevant laws to prevent the practice of illegally exporting seeds and seedlings of economically-valuable fruit varieties to other countries, where they can be cultivated and evade plant variety protections. One example cited is the case of Japan’s Shine Muscat grape, which was said to be grown and sold in countries like China, South Korea, Malaysia and Thailand at a lower price than the Japanese-grown version. Though the grape has been protected in Japan under the Plant Variety Protection and Seed Law since 2006, the protections did not necessarily extend in other countries, where it was not registered as the government did not anticipate this variety to be exported.     Climate damage in 2018 second highest in decade: A white paper recently disclosed that cost of damage to agriculture, forestry and fishery industries from abnormal weather in Japan for the 2018 fiscal year ending in March, was assessed at 567.9 billion yen ($5.3 billion), reports Nippon.com. The assessment includes 112.2 billion yen ($1.04 billion) in damage to agricultural crops and 213.8 billion yen ($1.99bn) in damage to farmland and agricultural facilities. The figure is the second highest in 10 years, with the highest during the decade recorded in 2011. Abnormal weather, according to the assessment includes typhoons, tsunamis, flooding, drought and frost.  Fukushima evacuees return to repopulate, farm abandoned village: The Guardian has published first-person account from mayor of Okuma, a small city in Fukushima that had been abandoned for eight years following the nuclear disaster of March 2011. Recently the Japanese government has permitted residents to return to a small portion of the city -- about 4% of the city has been decontaminated and deemed safe enough to occupy.  Premium melons fetching thousands of dollars: The Business Insider reports on the intricacies behind cultivating Japan’s prized crown melons, some of which fetch the equivalent of thousands of dollars at local auctions. The best melons, are cared for meticulously from the day the miniature fruit is pollinated. A record was set this year, when two melons from Hokkaido fetched 5 million yen -- about $45,000.  Return to top [/expand] [expand title="Kazakhstan"] MOA upgrades sowing, harvesting capacity, expands soya program: Asian Times reports on efforts by the Kazakh government this year to increase sowing and harvesting capacity for agriculture crops. At a press conference, Ministers revealed that the Kazakh Ministry of Agriculture has allocated 65 billion tenge (US$ 169.64 million) for the procurrement of spring new sowing and harvesting equipment, including tractors, seeders, tillage tools and sowing complexes. According to the report, the area of spring-sown crops this year covered 19 million hectares. Of this, 76% was for cereal crops; 14% for oilseed crops; and the rest for vegetables, melons, potatoes, fodder, sugar beet, cotton and tobacco. Spring sowing funds were also used to purchase quality seeds. As part of a soya diversification (expansion) program, the MOA has backed the planting of soya on 14,000 hectares  in the North Kazaskhstan Region Akimat. Plans are in place to expand soya cultivation to 1.5 million hectares, which could yield 3.2 million tonnes of crop.  High-yielding Chinese potato variety penetrates Kazakh market: Xinhua.net reports that the high-starch, high-yielding “Xisen 6” variety of potato is gaining popularity amongst farmers in Kazakhstan. The variety, which was introduced and improved by Xisen Potato Industry Group Co., Ltd. in east China's Shandong Province in cooperation with an agrarian technical university in Kazakhstan, can  reportedly yield the equivalent of about 74.6 tonnes per hectare.  Return to top [/expand] [expand title="Korea"] Plasma tech for seed germination, agriculture sterilization: Promising are “farm-to-table” experiments being conducted at the Plasma Technology Research Center of the National Fusion Research Institute in the Saemangeum industrial complex, Gunsan City, Jeonbuk Province (translated). Scientists are using plasma to bolster rice seed germination, as well as to extend the shelf life of agricultural products, reports DT.CO.KR.  Return to top [/expand] [expand title="Malaysia"] Solar rack innovation project developed by UPM: A “Retractable Drying and Planting Rack for AgroPhotovoltaics Farm” project has been developed by the Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), with development fund support from Pekat Solar Sdn Bhd. It involves a dual-rack system below a photo-voltaic array, in which shade-loving crops such as local tea varieties are planted on the lower rack, and crops ready for drying and harvesting are on the upper rack, taking advantage of the shade and heat generated by the PV array.  Paddy seed suppliers to be investigated: The Malaysian Insight reports that the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry will probe nine paddy seed suppliers alleged to have supplied poor quality seeds. A special task force has been set up for the investigation. The names of the suppliers and buyers have not been disclosed in the article.  Durian prices drop as supplies increase: The New Strait Times reports that durian prices in Malaysia have stabilized with increased supplies coinciding with harvest season. According to the report, prices were cited at between 8 and 60 Malaysian Ringitts (about US$ 2 to 14) depending on the variety, with some unverified reports that premium durians were recently being sold as high as 3,000 ringgits ($724) per fruit.     Return to top [/expand] [expand title="Myanmar"] Industry, Govt lobby to stimulate domestic veg oil crop production, cut palm oil imports: The Myanmar Times is reporting on efforts by industry and government representatives in Myanmar to reduce the country’s dependence on palm oil imports while reviving domestic oil cultivation, processing and demand. According to figures cited in the article, Myanmar imports upwards of US$650 million worth of edible oils, compared to only $270 million worth of domestically-produced oils that it exports. There are reportedly 3,200 oil mills throughout Myanmar -- mostly in  the Sagaing Region and Mandalay, and of these only 30% are currently in operation; demand for domestic oil milling has lagged in the face of cheaper imported edible oils. A tariff on palm oil imports is thus being considered to revive domestic oil crop production and processing demand.   Domestic movement of rice in Arakan state faces restrictions: Myanmar Peace Monitor reports on the struggle of rice traders in the Arakan state to move paddy domestically, citing a requirement to get special permit to transport rice domestically due to fighting between Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army.  Return to top [/expand] [expand title="New Zealand"] Land and buildings in ‘FoodHQ’ up for sale: Scoop New Zealand reports that a 1.87 hectare block of land buildings, strategically located in what is being developed as the country’s “foremost agricultural plant and food research hub”, is on the market. The block, located in heart of the future national Food Research & Development hub or “FoodHQ”, is on Dairy Farm Road in Palmerston North, and features 5,500 square meters of building infrastructure, including now-obsolete laboratories, glasshouses, storage and other miscellaneous facilities. Food HQ, according to the article “includes facilities being jointly developed in Palmerston North by Crown research agency AgResearch and Massey University, with dairy production and marketing giant Fonterra as an anchor corporate neighbor in the immediate location” Rat infestation in Auckland suburb threatens wild chickens as residents mull pesticides: Residents of the west Auckland suburb of Titirangi are split on whether to employ the use of the pesticide 1080 as an urgent control measure for an infestation of rats that are believed to be thriving off of feed intended for wild chickens that roam around the neighborhood. Some residents fear the pesticide will also cull the bird populations, while others want to do just that, in addition to addressing the rat problem.  NZ’s GMO law ‘outdated’: An opinion piece published by News Hub New Zealand urges for officials to review the country’s Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 (HSNO), which has “high thresholds [that] make it essentially impossible to obtain a release approval for virtually any GMO in pastoral and horticultural species, and that there is no clear path to market, which discourages commercial development." The article argues that New Zealand is losing out on the latest advancements in technology and that the law should be reviewed to take these into consideration.  Stink bug threat to horticulture crops, gardens: The New Zealand Herald reports on industry worries about the potential infestation of the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), an Asian-originating pest that could prove devastating to various types of crops, including apples, pears, grapes and even home garden crops. Control measures in affected countries -- including Italy and the US -- include the spraying of pesticides, pheromone traps and natural predetors; So far, the Ministry of Primary Industries has been successful in detecting the pest in inspections, but the threat of infestation is high, a seminar was told.  NZ Min of Ag on the road for agriculture, food security agendas: New Zealand’s Minister of Agriculture, Minister for Food Safety, and Minister of State for Trade and Export Growth, Damien O'Connor was on the road in the latter part of June to attend conferences and meetings related to trade and agriculture policy. He visited the UK, Italy, Egypt and Australia reports Dev Discourse.  Return to top [/expand] [expand title="Pakistan"] Ministry of Science and Technology sets up task force to bolster ag tech: Access to quality seeds and pesticides will be a key focus of a new Agriculture Technology Taskforce set up by the Ministry of Science and Technology, and to be led by University of Agriculture Faisalabad Vice-Chancellor Dr Muhammad Ashraf, reports Academia Magazine Pakistan. The article also notes that October 2 will be declared “science and technology day” to mark the birthday of of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, and that an agriculture fair will be staged in the near future to celebrate agricultural innovation.   Water inflows at Pakistan’s main rivers all ‘below average’ while some areas flooded: According to Tribune Pakistan report, below average flows have been observed in all major rivers of Pakistan, including the Indus, Kabul and Chenab, causing concern that there will not be enough reserves to ensure a successful kharif crop. In contrast, some areas of Pakistan have been impacted by excess rain, as underlined by a June 18 report by Urdu Point of cotton farmers being advised to drain out their flooded crop,  As well as a June 23 Urdu Point report highlighting affected rice crops from low-level floods in various rivers.   Punjab 2.0 for smart Pakistani farming: The Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) is collaborating with the Punjab Agriculture Department to offer agritech solutions to farmers through a newly-developed AgriSmart application and SMS alerts, which includes the utilization of a digital database of agricultural data, facilitating real-time reporting for crops, soil sampling, pest surveliance and fertiliser monitoring. Some three million farmers have been registered as part of the initiative, which offers advice on cultivation, weather and prevention of crop diseases via SMS, while some 2,000 field officers have been issued  Android devices.  Punjab Agri Expo 2019: The annual expo took place on 22 and 23 June, and according to the event website, the event catered to more than 100 exhibitors, 6000 farmers and 15,000 visitors, facilitating more than 4000 sales queries. According to The News International Pakistan, the event was joined by “70 companies and more than 3,000 farmers and other stakeholders and 46 exhibitors of more than nine countries including Bahrain, Malaysia, Qatar, Russia, Tajikistan, Saudi Arabia, China, Iran and Indonesia”. The report also states that 80% of Pakistan’s foreign exchange originates from agriculture, 60% of which is contributed by Punjab.  Ag Dept gives go-ahead for farmers to sow paddy in July: Urdu Point reports that the agriculture department has advised Pakistani paddy farmers to begin cultivation of paddy during the month of July, advising specific periods that would be most ideal based on the variety to be sown. Farmers have also been advised to conduct soil tests prior to sowing in order to determine optimal parameters for fertilization and irrigation.  Return to top [/expand] [expand title="Philippines"] Sakura forests to be planted in Davao, Marawi: The Philippines News Agency reports that a Japanese business group has revealed plans to experiment with the planting of some 10,000 Sakura trees in Davao and Marawi City. The planting will be initiated with 800 seeds procured from Okinawa, which is relatively warmer than the rest of Japan, and thus has similar climate to cooler parts of the Philippines.  Root crops for restoration in Palawan: Cassava and yam will be the focus of a land restoration, wildlife protection and economic crop planting project in Bataraza, Palwan, reports the Business Mirror. The project, which benefits members of the Kusor Upland Farmers’ Association, is being carried out with support from and cooperation with the Municipal Agriculture Office of Bataraza, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Community Environment and Natural Resource Office (Cenro), Lutheran World Relief, the Philippine Root Crops Institute of the Visayas State University and United States Agency for International Development (USAID).  El Nino a boon for mango production, bummer for prices: Gizmodo.com reports that the El Nino phenomena is proving a blessing and a curse for the Philippines mango industry this year. Citing a report from the Guardian, the article suggests that “low rainfall and relative humidity” are credited for high mango yields, with surplus reported to be four million pounds (about 1.8 million kg); however, the oversupply has seen prices of the fruit plummet from about 58 to 25 pesos per kg,  Return to top [/expand] [expand title="Sri Lanka"] Boosting coconut cultivation potential: The Sunday Times Sri Lanka reports on an initiative by Tropicoir Lanka Group along with its subsidiaries Tropicoir Lanka (Pvt) Ltd and Euro substrates (Pvt) to distribute 100,000 coconut seedlings to small growers around the country, with an aim of promoting domestic production of coconuts, and thus increase Sri Lanka’s export potential. The island nation reportedly exports about 800 million nuts annually, while 70% of the country’s production is consumed domestically, with an average 110 coconuts consumed per household.  Botanists discover, name new Sri Lankan orchid, rediscover ‘extinct’ orchid: Mongabay reports on the discovery and naming of an orchid species endemic to Sri Lanka: Pteroceras daluputtuwa was named after the late famous wild elephant, Dala Puttuwa, with the intention of highlighting efforts to conserve both flora and fauna. The article also reports that botanists had rediscovered specismens of Pteroceras viridiflorum, which was thought to be extinct as it had not been seen in nearly 150 years.  World’s ‘oldest human-planted tree’ is more than 2,000 years old: The Vintage News reports that the oldest known human-planted tree is a 2,300 year old sacred fig tree named “Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi”, loxcated in the Mahamenwa Gardens of Anuradhapura. The tree is believed to have been planted in 288 B.C., propogated from the iconic Sri Maha Bodhi tree in India, which the tree that Gautama Buddha was believed to have attained enlightenment. 1,600 saplings planted in memory of Indian icon: Residents of the village of Mahatma Gandhi Puram in Sri Lanka’s Nuwara Eliya, joined with reps of the High Commission of India and Sri Lanka’s Army, Parliament and Ministry of Hill Country New Villages, Infrastructure and Community Development, to plant 1,600 saplings on June 20 to commemorate 150thAnniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, World Environment Day and International Day of Yoga.  Return to top [/expand] [expand title="Thailand"] Drone startup eyeing crop yield prediction segment: Bangkok Post reports that a young drone imaging startup, Sky Visual Imaging Venture, is planning to expand its business from industrial site surveys to also  focus on agriculture crop surveys, which it thinks can be a lucrative venture. For the past three years, the Thai company has collected aerial image data from its drones flying over fields of sweetcorn. Such images can provide valuable signs, including “detect abnormalities like disease, weeds and fungus, and provide farmers with information on how much fertilizer to use in specific areas.” Beyond this, the firm is working with Thai and Dutch academics to determine correlations between “correlation between drone images taken at various wavelengths and crop yields”.  Return to top [/expand] [expand title="Turkey"] Hailstorms batter towns, destroy crops: An unspecified quantity and type of crops were damaged by hail in Azdavay and Seydiler districts, reports Daily Sabah. Walnut and egg sized hail reported in storms on June 4 also caused damage to property in Araç, Ihsangazi, Abana, Bozkurt, Çatalzeytin, Türkeli and Suhut districts.  Agriculture culture of prehistoric Anatolian city: Residents of the prehistoric city of Catalhoyuk, which was recently excavated, may have been some of the region’s earliest farmers of wheat, barley, rye, sheep, goats and cattle, reports Reuters. Return to top [/expand] [expand title="Vietnam"] 10 years of genetic resource development: A national gene bank being developed as part of a carried out by Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (2011-2020), is on track. According to nongnghiep.vn, the focus of the Plant Resources Center is to collect, evaluate, store, multiply and economically exploit endangered, rare and lucrative genetic resources. By the end of 2018, the project had logged the collection of plant and genetic resources from 53 locales, covering a total of 12,250 samples, including rice, maize, millet, sorghum, wheat, gourd, squash, loofah, chili, cabbage, soybeans, green beans, peanuts, sesame, taro, taro, cassava, sweet potato, ginger, turmeric and various types of fruit trees, industrial plants and flowers.  Evaluations have been carried out on plants’ agronomic traits, while detailed assessments of seed samples have also been conducted with an aim to better understand genetic diversity factors.  Tree tissue culture for economic afforestation: Nongnghiep Vietnam reports on the success of a national project to increase capacity in tissue culture and mass propagation of tree species intended for afforestation efforts. The project, titled "Development of timber trees for economic afforestation" has been carried out by the Research Institute for Forest Seed and Biotechnology [translated] since 2011, and involves the seedling production of stable and disease resistant acacia and eucalyptus varieties of trees through both tissue culture and vegetative propagation techniques. The seedlings and genetic material are supplied to 11 production and research facilities across the country, where cuttings are distributed in neighboring locales. The project, which also includes technology transfer and personnel training aspects, has reportedly increased the country’s production capacity from 200,000 trees to 1.5 million trees per year, and thus greatly curtailing the need for seedling imports.  In a related forestry conservation story reported by Vietnam News, one man is being praised for his reforesting efforts, which include the planting of a four hectare forest with a rare conifer variety (fokienia hodginsii) that he had sought out in forests by himself, before propogating the tree en masse.    [/expand]