Yield decline of sweet potato in the humid lowlands of Papua New Guinea

TitleYield decline of sweet potato in the humid lowlands of Papua New Guinea
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2000
AuthorsHartemink, AE, Poloma S, Maino M, Powell KS, Eganae J, and O’Sullivan JN
JournalAgriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
Issue2 - 3
Pagination259 - 269
Publication Languageeng
KeywordsEl-Niño effect, Nematodes, papua new guinea, soil fertility decline, Sweet potato, Weevils, Yield decline, Yield variation
AbstractSweet potato (Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam) is the major staple crop in Papua New Guinea and experiments were conducted investigating factors affecting yield decline. Yields of unfertilized plots were related to rainfall and measured changes in soil properties, nematode (Meloidogyne sp., Rotylenchulus reniformis) and sweet potato weevil (Cylas formicarius) populations. The research took place at two locations (Hobu and Unitech) on Eutropepts and Fluvents, respectively. Yields at Hobu decreased from 18 Mg ha−1 in the first season to around 7 Mg ha−1 in the third season, but no significant yield trend was observed at Unitech. Vine biomass was not affected by the number of cropping seasons at Hobu but it decreased at Unitech with time. Marketable tuber yield at both sites was significantly correlated to rainfall, i.e. the more rain the lower the yield. Significant changes in soil chemical properties included a decrease in pH and base saturation (Hobu) and a decrease in CEC and exchangeable K (Unitech). No significant changes in soil bulk density were found and no obvious pattern was found in the nutrient concentrations of leaf samples with time. Nematode populations were high and tripled between the first and third season at Hobu. Half of the vines at Hobu and all of the vines at Unitech were damaged by sweet potato weevils, but tuber damage was higher in Hobu although the damage was only superficial. Despite the considerable variation in yield and yield determining factors, the study showed that the decline in sweet potato yield may be attributed to the high nematode infestation, accompanied by an increase in vine damage by weevils and a declining soil fertility.