Diversifying Potato-Based Cropping System with Quinoa

Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) has been a priority crop for the Department of Agriculture ever since its introduction in 2015 due to its high nutritional value and ability to adapt to marginal environments. Besides contributing to the   national objective of food and nutritional security, one of the objectives of promoting quinoa is to diversify farmers existing traditional cropping system by adapting this versatile and a climate resilient crop..

The cultivation of quinoa as a second crop after the harvest of potato has been successfully demonstrated and adapted at Lobneykha village under Chapcha Geog of Chhukha Dzongkhag.  Lobnekha village is located at an elevation of 2700 masl and potato is the main  crop grown in the village besides other vegetables like radish, carrot, cabbage, spinach and chilli. A total of 27 households cultivated quinoa in 2019 after they were convinced that the crop  can be successfully cultivated after potato harvest.

ARDC Yusipang in collaboration with the Dzongkhag Agriculture Sector and Geog  Agriculture Setcor   supplied free seed to all the interested farmers.  Farmers of Chapcha harvest potato toward of end of May or early June allowing enough time for the cultivation of second crop.  Quinoa was sown in the first week of July after the harvest of potato. Sowing quinoa right after potato harvest had the advantage of saving time and labour required in field preparation as the field is thoroughly tilled while harvesting potato and, the residual nutrients from the potato field could efficiently be taken up by quinoa thereby allowing a very minimal waste of nutrient applied to potato. The soil moisture after potato harvest also remains adequate enough to encourage quick germination of quinoa as quinoa can take advantage of the recuing monsoon rains. The harvesting coincides with dry and cool weather of December which is perfect for quinoa harvest and seed processing.

Quinoa  matured in 155 days after sowing and the  grain yield obtained through crop cut  was 1839  kg per acre. According to Aum Lemo, whose field was the best she carried three weeding throughout the growing period. She also reported that she  gave light irrigation whenever the field was dry.  The total production from Lobnekha villages  in 2019 was 500 kg.

There are several advantages of promoting Quinoa after potato. Farmers  can diversify their potato based cropping system with a new nutritious and a climate resilient cereal. They can enhance their cropping intensity and get more  output per unit of land,  and also raise their household income. The sowing of Quinoa in higher elevations should not be delayed after mid July as the crop can be affected by early frost before flowering.  The national quinoa commodity program is looking forward to replicate the results in other  high altitude potato growing  Dzongkhags with support of ARDCs and Dzongkhag Agriculture Sector.

Yenten Namgay, Tirtha Bdr. Katwal, Padam Lal Giri and Surja Kumar Mongar

ARDC Yusipang and Chhukha Dzongkhag

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