The shortage of chilli during the off-season, import of vegetables, poor marketing strategy, and produce vulnerable to pest and diseases are some challenges the agricultural sector is facing today.
To generate appropriate knowledge, information, and technologies to address the emerging challenges in vegetable production, the Department of Agriculture under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests published a research and strategy document.
The research works to strengthen self-sufficiency, nutrition security, rural income, and economy of the country.
The strategy document, Vegetable Research and Development Strategy 2023 to 2027, focuses to strengthen the present research and development strategy on vegetable production.
It also aims to ensure the research programmes are “demand-driven and responsive to emerging needs and challenges.”
To complement the objectives of the strategy, 10 interrelated strategies on vegetable research and development will be adopted.
The interrelated strategies include prioritisation of high-demand crops for vegetable research, development of off-season vegetable production technologies, development of production systems and crops that provide resilience to changing climate and economic conditions, and use technology for vegetable research and development, among others.
The strategy highlights that in five years of the research, the four Agriculture Research and Development Centres (ARDC) in the country will conduct research and generate off-season production technology for year-round supply of chilli, tomatoes and onions.
Bhutan imported 3,308 metric tonnes (MT) of onions and 2,590 MT of tomato in 2019.
The ARDCs will carry out variety improvement of the vegetables and work with relevant departments focusing on every stage of the value chain, and disseminate to the farmers on improved technologies of the vegetables.
In addition to the three vegetables, production research considers 13 produce, including export potential vegetables such as asparagus, cabbage, carrot, and peas.
“Varietal improvement through breeding and selection focusing on higher yields, quality, pests and diseases resistance or tolerance, and environmental stresses shall be initiated at the ARDCs,” the document states.
For year-round vegetable supply, research will study the potential of vegetable production in different agro-ecological zones of the country.
Choosing improved varieties of seeds, adjusting planting time, and setting a controlled environment to grow the vegetable are technologies to produce off-season vegetables.
Another focus of the research is to improve the traditional varieties of produce.
The introduction of improved varieties and hybrids has increased vegetable production in the country.
“However, it is felt that the wealth of landraces or traditional varieties are gradually disappearing despite possessing rich crop genetic resources,” the document states.
Hence works to identify potential indigenous vegetables, conduct research for stress-tolerant climate-resilient vegetables, promote selected seeds through appropriate management practices will be carried out to improve traditional produce varieties.
Through the strategy, research will be conducted to create a production system that is resilient to changing climate and economic conditions.
The production system will emphasise water management, improve nursery raising technique and soil fertility, manage crops under protected cultivation at different altitudes, and promote bio-pesticides and bio-control agents, among others.
The five-year strategy will look into exploring marketing and the value-chain of produce.