SARE Professional Development Program Annual Report for Micronesia
January 1 - December 31, 2013
Summary of 2013 State/Protectorate PDP Activities and Results
This project came about as a direct result of the Extension Director visit to some non-circulating hydroponic lettuce production systems in Hawaii where lettuce is being produced at a cost of about five cents ($0.05) per pound. Limited amount of lettuce, mostly imported, are sold locally for about $2.00 per pound. In addition to the low cost of production and that this method could be used to produce leafy vegetables without soil or a garden space, it was immediately obvious it could be used to provide for nutrition and to supplement food security of populations on coral islands and in congested areas. Due to limited land mass, most dwellings on coral island communities are congested. A similar situation is found on high (volcanic) islands, especially in the capitals and communities adjacent to government and business areas.
Most activities for this project were introduction of the ‘new’ system to different clients, including extension agents, agriculture major students, farmers and homemakers, and women’s groups. Agriculture students participated in the construction of a demo unit, transplanting and maintenance and display during the 2013 International Day for Disaster Reduction/World Food Day celebration in Pohnpei.
Context and Overview
The State Implementation project continued to support professional development and capacity to ag professionals, farmers and the general public. This project also impacted 29 women groups in Pohnpei and more than 30 agriculture major students.
The SARE coordinator/Ag extension agent attended a 'train-the-trainer' hands-on training with the intention to learn and bring back the technology. In addition to cutting and assembling a 2'x4' unit with plastic coating, the training included visiting commercial systems of various sizes utilizing either or both circulating and non-circulating systems. To test if such system could actually be implemented under the humid and rainy conditions, two observation/demo units were tested; one at the college and the second in the community.
To accommodate the relatively high rainfall, compared to Hawaii, and the unavailability of hydroponics fertilizers the islands, minor changes were made to what was learned at the University of Hawaii field experiment station. The first was a portable unit that was placed in and out of the direct sunlight to prevent rainwater entering the system. The process continued to the point where moving the system may damage the crop (about four weeks after transplanting). At this point, the system was placed under a roof oriented to receive maximum sunlight up to harvest at four weeks later. This system uses a commercial water-soluble fertilizer developed for non-circulating hydroponic lettuce production. The second unit was placed in a plastic-roof greenhouse and uses another commercial water-soluble fertilizer (Miracle-Gro) for use on starting seedlings. This fertilizer is readily available on the island.
Activities and Methods
The concept of growing seeds without soil (hydroponic system) was introduced to students who were involved in the assembling of the unit and planting seedlings into the system. The students continued to be involved weeks later when the demo unit was transferred from the college to a location (15 minutes by car) where the International Day for Disaster Reduction /World Food Day celebrations were held. They assisted in reassembling the system and describing the system to spectators. Other students, employees and interested individuals were given details of the system when they stopped by to look and ask questions. The harvest was given to the college president and staff members. About half a dozen homemakers wanted to buy the system. Community members also were involved in the second activities for the second demonstration unit. Hydroponic as a means to produce nutritious food was introduced during meetings of Pohnpei Piggery Advisory Council (PAC) and during a workshop conducted to about 60 women members of 29 women’s groups making up the Pohnpei Women Council. Pictures of the ready to harvest lettuce in the hydroponic were shown. Community members were involved in the setting up and maintenance of the second system established in the community.
For the demo units, six different lettuce varieties (five from a farmers’ association outlet in Hawaii and one from a seed company in Viet Nam tropical seed company) were germinated in a greenhouse using a nursery soil mixture. Healthy seedlings were selected and transferred into jiffy cups for the first unit, and later into net cups used for the duration of the growing of the crop. For the second unit, selected seedlings were transferred into Styrofoam cups filled a nursery soil mixture. These were used until maturity. The systems were made of plywood with 2”x4” for the sides and black plastic sheet to hold the liquid fertilizers.
PDP-funded Publications/Educational Materials and Products
Changes in Ag Professionals’ Knowledge, Intention and Action
More than 300 individuals who were exposed to the system increased knowledge and awareness. These included agriculture extension agents, nutrition extension agents, students, women’s groups, farmers and homemakers. For them it was the first time to see a hydroponic system, i.e. growing vegetables without soil in fertilizer solution. At least two employees started their own system at home, using one-gallon containers and other such water container.
Involvement of agriculture major students resulting from increase awareness on hydroponic production of lettuce and reaching other non-traditional audiences like 29 women’s groups and employees of the college never was a component of the project.
Involvement of Others in State PDP Planning and Implementation
It is not practicable to have a PDP or SARE advisory committee in Micronesia, mainly because of communication constraints. However, each of the island state (counties) has its own Cooperative Research & Extension advisory council. These councils are consulted as research and extension projects are being developed. In some cases presidents of the three colleges in Micronesia (Palau Community College, College of Micronesia-FSM and College of the Marshall Islands) are consulted.