Research centre helping farmers cope with climate change

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The Horticulture Research Centre at the National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute is using new techniques to produce quality seeds to help vegetable growers cope with climate change.

Director of the Centre, Dr Bounneuang Douangboupha, said the facility was studying new ways to enable vegetable growers to boost crop yields in both the wet and dry seasons.

It is also working to support the government’s food security policy and “zero hunger by 2030” campaign.

Dr Bounneuang said farmers are continuing to face challenges in boosting yields, with extreme weather creating constant difficulties.

Last year, many provinces experienced heavy flooding during tropical storms Son-tinh and Bebinca, which damaged or destroyed more than 98,000 hectares of crops and fisheries.

The storms will have a bearing on the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s targets for 2016-2020 which were set to ensure food security, greater commercial production, and sustainable forestry management.

Hot weather from April to June and the rainy season from July to October also serve to lower farmers’ vegetable yields.

These impacts mean that Laos has to buy vegetables from neighbouring countries in response to higher demand at these times of the year.

Dr Bounneuang said the Centre has continued to assist farmers by producing seeds which are more resistant to harsh weather conditions.

The Horticulture Research Centre can now produce nine varieties of vegetable seeds with climate resilience which are being distributed to farmers across the country.

The Centre is encouraging farmers to grow vegetables in greenhouses and update their knowledge and technical skills, especially with regard to green agriculture, in order to increase production.

It is also advising vegetable growers to use Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) as a collection of principles to apply to on farm production and post-production processes, resulting in safe and healthy food and cultivating organic products which are in demand.

According to a Department of Agriculture report, GAP products were grown last year by 15 farmer groups made up of more than 500 families.

GAP products are grown on about 1,400 hectares in Vientiane and the provinces of Vientiane, Khammuan, Savannakhet and Champassak.

The current area officially certified for organic agriculture is 7,984 hectares, taking in areas of the capital and the provinces of Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Xieng Khuang, Oudomxay, Savannakhet, Champassak and Xayaboury, with the yield estimated at 3,375 tonnes a year.

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