Graham Centre researchers are contributing to a project to improve production, management and marketing of vegetables in Cambodia and Lao PDR.
The project is a partnership brokered by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) involving collaborators in Australia, Cambodia and Laos.
Dr Ben Stodart and Dr Nicola Wunderlich from the Charles Sturt University (CSU) School of Agricultural and Wine Sciences are focusing on the crop protection and integrated pest management.
“The vegetable industries in Cambodia and Lao PDR face a number of shared challenges including low yields, high post-harvest losses, increased pest and disease pressure, particularly during the wet season, product that does not conform to quality demands of consumers and meeting market demand during the wet season, Dr Wunderlich said.
“It’s been identified that ineffective pest management programs also lead to an over-reliance on chemical control, which is exacerbated during the wet season.”
The project encourages farmers to still try and meet market demand by growing these crops under the less favourable conditions during the wet season, with the help of protected structures, which are a similar set up to our glasshouses but are made from locally available materials.
Dr Wunderlich recently travelled to South-East Asia to facilitate three-day workshops with project team members and other representatives from partner organisations.
“The workshops aimed at increasing knowledge on Integrated Pest and Disease Management (IPM) concepts and methods, so the participants have the confidence in promoting these methods to extension staff and farmers,” Dr Wunderlich said.
“We also wanted to find out the potential constraints for farmers in adopting these practices so we can develop action plans to overcome them in our extension activities.”
Workshops were held at the Cambodian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), Phnom Penh and the Horticultural Research Centre, Vientiane, Laos.
The project is titled 'Improving market engagement, postharvest management and productivity of the Cambodian and Lao PDR vegetable industries'.
Project partner organisations and collaborators include The University of Adelaide, CSU, the University of Newcastle, the General Directorate of Agriculture, Cambodian Agricultural Research and Development Institute, Royal University of Agriculture, International Development Enterprises, the Horticultural Research Centre in Laos and the National University of Laos.
A personal perspective on research for development
Dr Wunderlich is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Graham Centre and has a background in plant pathology.
She has worked as an agronomy extension specialist at the International Rice Research institute (IRRI) in the Philippines, a consultant for ICON Group International, Inc. and curator for TotoAg/TotoGeo information dissemination platform, a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded project headed by INSEAD.
“My original interest in International Agricultural Development stemmed from training and working with East Timorese Plant Pathologists here at Charles Sturt University and in East Timor on a previous ACIAR project almost 10 years ago,”Dr Wunderlich said.
“This experience lead me to shift my involvement with science from being purely laboratory research based to focusing more on the link between research outcomes and innovations and their practical implication for farmers, and in particular adoption and the constraints to adoption by farmers”.