Sei Enterprises, Inc. has cultivated over 250,000 square meters over the last 10 years and is the biggest black pepper farm in Pohnpei State in the Federated States of Micronesia. Research shows that fern posts support 98% of the pepper plants in this area. Due to constant use, fern post availability is decreasing. Appropriately sized posts are not readily available and must be harvested deep in the forest at expensive rates. The present price is $5 per post, which means $3,400 per acre. The purpose of this project was to test alternative posts to support pepper plants.
The outcome of our research on Sei’s Black Pepper Farm in Pohnpei showed negative results when comparing four dead posts and two living posts to the traditional fern post. The vines could not hold onto the four dead posts, which were composed of Kaikes, Ahk en Naniak Ilangilang and Weipwul. As the posts’ bark falls off, the vines can’t hold on. The two live posts, composed of Erithrina and Glilicilia, competed with the pepper plants for nutrients, causing the plants to grow slower than those growing on fern posts.
Our primary objective was to test alternative supporting posts, dead and living, for pepper plants.
We put up the alternative posts and planted the pepper plants beside them. We engaged in proper maintenance including tying the pepper vines to the posts and weeding and fertilizing.
We held two field days, one of which was attended by soil scientist Mohammad Golabi who participated and gave a lecture on soil. He took soil and leaf samples and tested them in Guam at the Soil Lab University. The results indicate that most of the essential nutrients in our area are very low.
The results showed that the soil pH is adequate though the range is between 6.02 and 7.63. Organic matter is low in all soil samples except one. Phosphorous was adequate but Calcium and Potassium tested very low. We also found that nitrogen is low in all samples including the plants.
BENEFITS OR IMPACTS ON AGRICULTURE
The results provide information to farmers about what doesn’t work in growing pepper plants, which can direct future research.
Farmers should continue researching alternative supporting posts for black pepper plants.