Chhimi Dema 

The National Centre for Organic Agriculture has been working to introduce a few new varieties of tomatoes for the past three years in the country.

The agriculture research and development centres covering four major agroecological zones are evaluating seven varieties of fruit for their adaptive capacity.

These varieties were selected from the 50 varieties that were sourced from the World Vegetable Centre and local sources.

The new varieties of tomatoes will be introduced next year.

The organic centre’s principal investigator, Laxmi Thapa, said that the varieties were evaluated for disease resistance and high yielding abilities, and superior performing varieties were selected for multi-location trials.

“The project focused on tomato because the two current varieties, Roma and Ratan, were released more than two decades ago and have degenerated leading to low productivity in the fields,” she said.

Roma and Ratan are the only two commercial and open-pollinated varieties cultivated in the country today.

Laxmi Thapa said that another reason for focusing on tomato production is the high import rates of tomatoes and onions in the country.

According to the Bhutan Trade Statistics, in 2020, 29.084 metric tonnes of tomatoes were imported.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forests has also recognised tomatoes as the priority vegetables for production with chilli and onion in 2019.

The new tomato varieties will serve as varieties or hybrids best adapted to the Bhutanese conditions, contribute to sustainable vegetable production and augment income generation by making good varieties available to the farming population.

Through the project, the centre trained researchers in breeding tomatoes and farmers in pruning and seed production.

The centre also published a guide to organic tomato production and a scientific paper on tomato pruning.

The project which will end in September this year was supported by the Asian Food and Agriculture Cooperation Initiative (AFACI), an inter-governmental and multilateral cooperation body in Asia.

AFACI aims to improve food production and promote sustainable agriculture in Asian countries through knowledge and technology transfer and sharing.

Bhutan is currently hosting the sixth AFACI general assembly in Thimphu and is among 14 other members of AFACI.

The three-day meeting will hold a workshop on food security, the general assembly, and a field visit to the country’s agriculture and historical sites.

Through the initiative projects such as the establishment of a prevention network for migratory pests in the Asian region, the development of the national soil map and soil information is carried out currently in the country.