FFTC’s contribution to the citrus industry in Southeast Asia
In the `90s and early 2000s, FFTC has also set up field demonstration projects in Vietnam and Cambodia on the management of disease-free citrus orchards, and has provided technical and partial financial support for the establishment of laboratory and insect-proof screen houses in national institutes. This was undertaken under the leadership of FFTC’s consultant in horticulture and crop protection, Dr. Hong-Ji Su, a Professor at the National Taiwan University. With funding and guidance from the FFTC management, Professor Su has facilitated a citrus research and development project, which initially started in two countries and eventually cascaded in the whole region.
The key technologies disseminated through the NARS partners and FFTC's various forms of media included rapid and accurate pathogen detection, production of disease-free seedlings, IPM in seedling nurseries, micro-grafting of shoot tips, and crop management for preventing re-infection technologies. Among those most active in the transfer of acquired technologies are the Southern Horticultural Research Institute (SOFRI) and Plant Protection Research Institute (PPRI) in Vietnam with the support of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The same technologies have also been further extended to Lao PDR and Myanmar through FFTC’s partner organizations. As the report of the FFTC 2015 External Review said, for two decades, FFTC’s commitment and financial support have resulted in significant gains to control this destructive disease in Southeast Asia.
The Center’s high point in 1990 was FFTC’s 20th Anniversary, which coincided with the 10th TAC Meeting. The Center joined eminent agricultural scientists and administrators to review the work of FFTC and discussed how it might form closer links with the national extension systems of the Asian and Pacific Region. This meeting produced several valuable recommendations like the publication of simple, practical information, rather than the results of scientific research.
The Center celebrated its 20th Anniversary, which coincided with the 10th TAC meeting. The meeting produced several valuable recommendations like the publication of simple, practical information, rather than the results of scientific research.
A number of seminars held by the Center in 1991 were concerned with achieving economies of scale on the small farms characteristic of most Asian countries. This is important as farm production in the region comes under the threat of cheap, imported agricultural produce. FFTC held an international seminar in Thailand on “Integrated Systems of Swine Production through Extension and Marketing.” Another seminar was held in Thailand on how to enlarge the scale of farm operations of smallholders, with the discussion focusing on problems and successes of various programs of group farming and contract farming for small farms. Another agricultural economics seminar held in Korea, discussed how farmers organized into agricultural cooperatives can increase their participation in agribusiness.
Two highlights of 1992 were the Center’s 10th TAC Meeting, held in Korea, which discussed systems of sustainable agriculture in the region, and the FFTC External Evaluation, which was conducted by a four-man team headed by the German IRRI scientist Dr. Helmut von Exkull and three TAC members, Dr. Kunio Toriyama (Japan), Dr. Yong-Hwa Shin (Korea), and Mr. Chin-Chao Koh (Taiwan). After more than 20 years of existence, the external reviewers concluded that “FFTC has played an immensely important and productive role in collecting, exchanging and disseminating information on a very wide range of modern agriculture,” and that “FFTC publications have provided most valuable and reliable sources of information for students, teachers, technicians and agronomists and farm leaders in the region.” It was also in November of this year when a new Director, Mr. Chin-Chao Kho, was appointed. He held the position for six years.
FFTC and RBPR
The programs carried out in 1993 reflected a strong concern for sustainability in the region’s agriculture. An international seminar on the improved management of insect-borne virus diseases focused on biological control methods. Another topic was the improved diagnosis of plant virus diseases by monoclonal antibodies, allowing for early detection and accurate identification. It was on this year when FFTC held an international training course on new techniques of testing fruit and vegetables for pesticide residues.
Called the Rapid Bioassay of Pesticide Residues (RBPR), it is a bio-chemical analysis to monitor pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables and is considered as a rapid method to detect residues of organophosphate and carbamate insecticides. Thus began another series of training courses which FFTC embarked on for several years. The training course consists of intensive lectures, discussions, laboratory exercises, hands on experiences, and field visits to observe the practical application of RBPR in fruits and vegetables production and marketing in Taiwan.
In 1994, the Center held a number of programs concerned with improved upland farming. One international meeting discussed researches in upland agriculture, including agroforestry and alley cropping of leafy legume trees. Another international workshop on livestock production concluded that livestock can make an important contribution to the profitability and productivity of farming systems in upland areas.
FFTC started the training course on Rapid Bioassay of Pesticide Residues (RBPR), a fast technique of testing fruits and vegetables for pesticide residues. Thus began a series of training courses which FFTC embarked on for several years.
Addressing the challenges of the WTO
It was at the tail end of 1994 when the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) made a smooth transition and shifted to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in January, 1995, restricting most forms of direct economic support for farmers, such as subsidies and price support. At the same time, domestic markets in Asia were opened to cheap imported agricultural produce. So in May, 1995 an international meeting on food processing by small-scale farmers was organized by the Center. It discussed not only the technology of small-scale food processing for Asian countries, but the managerial skills and other information required by farmers to succeed.
In 1996, a number of the Center’s seminars have addressed the problems of Asia’s small family farms in the light of the effects of WTO. One international seminar was on the viability of family farms and food security under WTO. Another seminar was carried out in partnership with AVRDC (now WorldVeg) to discuss improved fertilizer efficiency for vegetable production. It was also this year when the Center began a survey on the use of agricultural chemicals other than fertilizers. It studied current patterns of pesticide use, including health and environment issues. There was also a workshop on crop-livestock integration which aimed to study programs which combine annual and forage crops with the raising of small livestock.
The Center’s seminars addressed the problems of Asia’s small family farms in the light of the effects of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Topics included viability of family farms and food security, improved fertilizer efficiency, crop-livestock integration, etc.
The projects for 1997 continued FFTC’s interest in collecting and disseminating information on sustainable agriculture. On this year, there was an emphasis on the collection of information through surveys. The agricultural situation in the region during that time was already changing rapidly in response to the global trend towards free trade, and to the worldwide concern over the long-term environmental impact of agriculture. One important survey was on technology for livestock production, while another was a survey on the incidence of virus diseases on fruits and their vectors. There were also training courses on integrated weed management and the use of biological agents to control pests and weeds.
In 1998, Dr. Torng-Chuang Wu was appointed as the new Director of FFTC, a position he held until October, 2004. The Center also continued its survey of the incidence of virus diseases of banana and citrus, particularly in nursery and foundation stock. The work also included a regional evaluation of the damage done by corn borer and fruit fly. Another important program was a seminar on rural tourism. This enabled farmers to capitalize on the growing wish of city dwellers in Asia to enjoy the quiet countryside and take part in country life.
The FFTC website started to be developed in the mid-`90s, but it was in 1997 when it went online and was accessed by the public at http://www.fftc.agnet.org. In 1999, FFTC established an online database which could be accessed through its website. In this first year of development, the database has made available free of charge the FFTC publications of the last ten years, including several hundred Extension and Technical Bulletins. It was also this year when the Center began a regional survey of information flow in national extension systems and the information needs of extension staff, so that it can better meet these needs.
FFTC started its online operation via its website. The website has had a lot of updates and improvements since then.