Choki Wangmo

To provide alternative options to farmers through crop diversification for better income, the agriculture ministry released eight varieties of six different crops.

The seeds of maize, beans, plum, pineapple, banana and tea were either hybrid or pollinated. The varieties, evaluated and tested on-station and on-farm through research were recommended by the National Seed Board.

The research has found that Wengkhar HTM 1, the first hybrid variety of maize was heat tolerant and the yield was higher than the previously released and local varieties.

“The hybrid variety was released to address the urgent need for climate-resilient maize given that heat and drought stress affecting the yield and is expected to worsen with climate change,” said the chief agriculture officer, Tshering Wangchen.

Prime green bean released as Bajosemchum 1-P is an open-pollinated variety. The yield is more than three times higher (7.3 MT/acre) than the local varieties (2.4 MT/acre).

Tshering Wangchen said that the released seed varieties had unique characteristics of their own and were different from the existing varieties, the higher yield being one parameter.

For example, the stringless bean is preferred by consumers and the banana variety can be rapidly multiplied through tissue culture techniques, therefore, increasing income for farmers.

One of the components of research in evaluating the crop varieties was its resistance to insect, pest, and diseases. So the released varieties are either tolerant or resistant to insect, pest, and diseases.

Although indigenous crop varieties are low yielding, Tshering Wangchen said that they were climate-resilient, therefore, the need to conserve the traditional varieties in the backdrop of changing climate.

“There is also potential to use these traditional crop varieties as parent crops,” he said.

He said that the quality of the seed depended on the seed production technologies. The seeds obtained through the informal seed sector are inferior but those from the National Seed Centre meet quality standards.

As per the Seed Act of Bhutan 2000 and Seed Rules and Regulations of Bhutan 2018, non-notified or released crop varieties are prohibited in the country for commercial purposes.

The released crop varieties in the country are evaluated as per the Standard Evaluation Guidelines for Field and Horticultural Crops of Bhutan. They are then proposed by research centres and seed agencies to the Variety Release Committee. The committee, based on the feasibility and potential of the crop, recommends the proposal and submits the list to the National Seed Board, which eventually and officially adopts and releases the crop variety.

The seeds will be made available with the National Seed Centre, which is mandated to multiply seeds and distribute across the country.