Ensuring the Sustainability of Crops and Industrial Plants in Indonesia

A story from Jati Adiputra

Jati Adiputra

Everyone has to have a dream in life. Mine is to protect Indonesian natural resources from various threats, such as diseases and viruses. It is my duty as part of the National Quarantine Standard Testing Body's laboratory staff to ensure that the food and industrial plants are free from the risk of disease.

The danger of threats from plant viruses and diseases is something I have understood since my college days as a student of Biology program in the Universitas Nasional, Jakarta and finished my post-grad in Institut Pertanian Bogor majoring in Plant Protection. In the 19th century, Brazil was the highest producer of rubber in the world, yet the attack from Microcyclus ulei, a kind of leaves fungi, in the early 20th century destroyed the majority of rubber plants in Brazil and drastically reduced their production number into less than one percent of the world's rubber supplies.

As such, it is a must for Indonesian's plantation to be as protected as much as possible to prevent such occurrence from happening. As someone who has to analyze plant viruses and diseases on daily basis in the laboratory, it is necessary for me to enhance my competence in order to improve the plant protection in Indonesia. Especially since the variety of plant viruses and diseases have evolved, many of which typically are latent in characteristics or hidden with lab testing being the only effective method to detect them.

In order to enhance my self-competence, I registered myself as a doctoral student in Washington State University, United states, specifically in the Plant Pathology department. I felt lucky to be able to join this university which was founded in 1980 because of its strong research tradition.

I entered this university in 2013 and for the first four months, it was a challenging time for me. The winter especially, as Indonesia only has two seasons, rainy and dry. Adapting to the rules and habits of the American folks also took time.

I truly enjoyed the campus life in the U.S because it is the center of world's knowledge and science. I was able to meet students from around the globe and it was truly fun to meet folks from different cultural background since it allowes me to learn the cultures of various countries.

Going to school in the U.S also gives the opportunity to deepen knowledge and develop my competency. Seminars and international workshop were held on regular base and I even had the opportunity to participate twice in the American Pathological Society's annual conference in 2016 and 2017. I also joined the annual conference held by Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers in 2016. Events such as these were really beneficial because I got lots of updates on the latest knowledge in the field of plant pathology.

I also participated in several workshops in the U.S, one of which that held my interest was about studying the insects' feeding pattern. It gave me a specific knowledge that is particularly helpful in preventing insects' attack on food and industrial plants.

Another activity which I liked during my school days in the U.S was the field lectures. One of which that left great impression to me was the visitation to the grape plantation. It was a new experience for me to see the detailed care of grapes with the help of modern technology and that became a research object for my dissertation which was about a virus that attacks grape leaves.

Jati (left) and friends in Washington State University.

My doctorate degree was funded by USAID PRESTASI scholarship. It was truly helpful to support the tuition fee and the living cost, allowing me to focus on my study. After nearly four years, I graduated in September 2017.

The moment I got back to Indonesia, I used the knowledge I gained from overseas to preserve the farming and plantation plants. My new knowledge from America was put into practice in the laboratory of National Quarantine Standard Testing Body for one purpose: to prevent the pandemic on plants in Indonesia.

In order to increase the positive impact of my knowledge on the process of quarantine and prevention of widespread plant diseases, I took an active role as a speaker in several technical guidance held in a number of quarantine bodies in Jambi, Yogyakarta, and Makassar. I have also became a training instructor for my colleagues in the Quarantine Body. Hopefully, through all the new activities that I am doing can give a broader impact to the quarantine aspects.

I helped the Ministry of Agriculture in developing and creating the list of plant viruses, this is something new which Indonesia has not yet have. The identification of viruses and diseases is important so that we are able to recognize the symptoms and prevent them. Once we know the type of virus and the symptoms, it will be easier to take prevention steps. Such risk analysis must be held on regular base.

Hopefully, with what I can give, even though it is not yet huge, it can help preserving the plants in Indonesia. I also hope that there will be more young generation from Indonesia who will pursue their studies overseas so that they can develop their self-competencies. Indonesia need lots of qualified human resources to realize the Golden Indonesia 2045.

For the young generation of Indonesia, always try to do the best in Indonesia. For those who wish to continue their study overseas, prepare yourself to have a good foreign language competency, especially in English. And don't forget to develop your own network since your undergrad years, and also you also need to have a great achievement in your academic and non-academic aspects.