Agriculture: An agriculture extension officer from Paro, Yeshi Dorji had a difficult time marketing the tomato from his gewog a few years ago. The main problem was short harvest season and the tomato blight that spoilt the crop.

Yeshi Dorji along with some 20 farmers and extension workers from Paro, Punakha, Wangdue, and Thimphu were at the Integrated Technology Farm in Wangsisina yesterday.

They were brought in to learn about a new technique of tomato cultivation that would be 70 percent resistant to diseases mainly blight, and manifold the fruit bearing capacity.

A horticulture officer has completed a trial of tomato grafted on to brinjal at the farm in Wangsisina.

Inside a polyhouse in between rows of tomato plants loaded with a mix of ripe and unripe fruits, they listen aptly to the horticulture officer explain.

The deputy chief horticulture officer, Shankar Chhetri, said, “You can harvest every week for nine months once it starts to flower.”

Some farmers bow and look closer.

“Unlike the ordinary tomato, it is fully resistant to tomato blight,” he goes on.

The process starts in April with establishment brinjal and Bei seed nursery for rootstock. After a month, the saplings are ready to be transplanted in pots. The tomato nursery is then established for scion-wood.

Farmers were more concerned about the sapling supply.

“Would it work with other varieties as well?” a farmer from Wangdue, Phuba asked. The official’s affirmation brought some smiles.

Phuba said that the problem for them was the blight affecting the crop and the harvest lasting only a month at the most.

“This technology seems feasible,” he said. For the polyhouse, the government would issue free plastic.

Farmers said with increased production, the marketing aspect should also be addressed.

“If only we can address that then we can be sure of making profit,” Tashi Dargay from Palo, Wangdue said.

According to farmers, within a short time, in summer, the market is flooded with the local produce with the produce coming from various places at the same time.

Tomato, mostly imported, today costs more than Nu 80 at the local market.

Chief horticulture officer Kinley Tshering said such technologies are developed for farmers to promote entrepreneurship.

“While we cannot increase the land for cultivation, adopting such technologies is the only way to achieve food self-sufficiency,” Kinley Tshering said.

The farmers were also introduced to other climate smart agriculture and low cost technologies at the farm.

Last year Bhutan exported fruits worth Nu 600 million (M), vegetables worth Nu 83M, and potato worth Nu 832M.

Tshering Palden