|A farmer planting pyrethrum in Maltaka, Enga|
Pyrethrum offers an alternative income earning opportunity for farmers in the high altitude highlands of
. Papua New Guinea
It is re-emerging as a cash crop due to innovations in research and development through collaborative efforts among partners.
With the establishment of markets, improved planting materials, production suitability, technical support and new information, farmers should fully capture this income-earning potential.
Pyrethrum is a daisy-like plant of the Chrysanthemum group of the Compositae family. An active constituent, extracted from dried flower heads, known as ‘pyrethrin’, has economical importance.
Most of this active ingredient is used as additives in pharmaceuticals (body and household sprays), insecticides, mosquito coils and many more.
Pyrethrum grows well in some patches of areas within altitudes ranging from 1800 – 3000 meters above sea level.
Such altitudes have the suitable temperatures and humidity with optimal rainfall, and other environmental conditions conducive for pyrethrum production.
In the 1950s, the national Department of Agriculture and Livestock introduced and evaluated high-yielding seeds from
Congo and to determine its adaptability
under PNG conditions. Kenya
Research work commenced in Aiyura (Eastern Highlands) in the early 1950s but due to poor performance, further work was moved to Tambul (
Western Highlands) in 1966 and continued further up the
highlands to Sirunki in the Enga province.
From results obtained during these trials, 30 pyrethrum clones with high pyrethrin content, superior agronomic yield parameters with some level of tolerance to floral fungal diseases were selected for further assessment.
The 30 promising clones were further multiplied at the Sirunki Sub-Research DPI Station and distributed to farmers around Sirunki and other pyrethrum-growing areas in the Enga province.
From the 1960s to the late 1980s, the pyrethrum industry played a major role in sustaining the livelihood of some 65-85,000 people.
Unfortunately, the clones were lost in farmers’ fields.
The loss was beyond a retraceable point as farmers lost interest in the crop.
This contributed to delivery of fewer flowers by farmers to an extraction factory and thus resulted in the fall of the industry in 1995.
The pyrethrum industry was worth K350, 000 to K400, 000 with annual production of 300 tonnes in the early 1970’s until the closure.
However, since 2003, NARI Tambul has recollected available pyrethrum clones that were found in farmer fields in the Sirunki area and established a germplasm collection at the Taluma Research Station.
This was done with the aim to improve pyrethrum clones by poly-crossing among them. It was also a step forward for reviving the pyrethrum industry with the identification and selection of improved clones.
In addition, NARI has also worked on addressing crop husbandry in relation to improvement in flower yields through assessment on cultural husbandry practices such as plant spacing, slashing off tops, fungal disease severity and improved drying methods. This includes generation and production of technical information for dissemination to farmers and stakeholders.
For the pyrethrum industry to be fully re-commercialised, the farming communities need to be well equipped with technical knowledge and skills on pyrethrum crop husbandry which are adopted into their farming systems.
This has been the main focus of various collaborators now involved in the re-commercialisation of the pyrethrum industry in PNG.
The industry has picked up since recently due to a sound partnership arrangement between the extension team of the Enga Pyrethrum Company and the NARI Tambul research team in terms of production and dissemination of technical information through distribution of posters, information leaflet and improved planting materials.
Farmers and farming communities have cultivated 18 improved pyrethrum clones which were distributed as preliminary released planting materials since early 2006 through the collaboration.
As a result there is significant increase in production of more than 145 tonnes in 2008, compared to less than 40 tonnes in 2005.
Currently, the Enga Pyrethrum Company Holdings Ltd (EPC) is purchasing dried flowers from farmers and selling its product, oleoresin, in crude, to Botanical Resources Australia based in
EPC started off with the purchase of 40 tonnes in 2005 and gradually increased to 145 tonnes in 2008.
According to the pyrethrum extraction factory at the outskirt of Mt Hagen City, the extraction efficiency of the plant has improved mainly due to high pyrethrin level of dried flowers, improvement in farmers’ level of understanding of the crop husbandry through awareness and availability of improved planting materials.
With the improvement in the level of understanding of the crop by growers and farming communities, the industry would serve as a giant sole cash earner in the marginalised sketches of high altitude highlands of PNG.
Hereafter, the industry would foster downstream processing and farmers can be paid much higher price for their produce.
It can be paid on the pyrethrin content and not dried weight as it is at present.
The industry has great potential in subsequently establishing multiple export markets overseas for selling of raw materials as well as processed products.
Pyrethrum crop is a sustainable and viable industry for rural marginalised farmers in the high altitude highlands of the country.
The industry has a great potential, having had the most-conducive environmental conditions, production cycle all year round, availability of improved clones with more than three years of expanded life span of the farm, and multiple established overseas markets for the produce and processed products.