Saving the world's most delicious fruit

Victor Puno has recently returned from field work in the Savannakhet province of Southern Laos where he was part of a team studying and supporting watermelon farmers.

Victor is currently a PhD student working with our Plant Pathology team on one of the most severe global risks to watermelon production, a disease known as watermelon wilt caused by the fungus Fusarium.

Food security has been a hot topic lately in relation to sustainable agriculture, climate change and a growing world population. Laos is one of the least developed countries in the world and faces many economic and environmental challenges. The watermelon industry in Laos is relatively new, having been set up as a dry season cash crop on farms that grow rice in the wet season. In Laos, growing rice is dependent on good rain. In the past, drought has led to severe food shortages and the need for charity and food aid.

Victor went to Laos with the support of The Crawford Fund, HSBC and the Royal Botanic Gardens, as an inspiring example of science knowledge being shared between countries. Victor was based with the Provincial Agriculture and Forestry Officer of Savannakhet to help develop a plant disease diagnostics lab and share the best practices used in plant pathology in Australia.

The Crawford Fund is an Australian initiative supporting agricultural research and development. The Fund established Victor’s six week project in Laos as part of its global work sending scientists to developing countries for training, research and capacity building. 

Victor and the team surveyed over 30 watermelon farms to look at farming practices and check for the presence of disease. The results will be used to help select disease resistant watermelon cultivars and inform training opportunities for local farmers, most of whom are new to the industry.

This sort of practical aid and knowledge sharing is critical to protecting food production in the future as The Crawford Fund states on its website:

A world without watermelons is unimaginable, we are all grateful to the scientists keeping them safe.

You can help support scientists like Victor but donating to our Plant Pathology Lab: