Farmers’ Field Day on Bhutan’s Traditional Maize Phenotypic Diversity

Trashigang: In the face of the emerging challenge of climate change and in the quest to understand the traditional maize diversity of Bhutan, the National Biodiversity Centre (NBC) and the Scuola Superiore Sant Anna (SSSA) University in Italy in collaboration with the Agriculture and Research Development Centres (ARDC) in Wengkhar and Khangma and the Farm Machinery Corporation Limited (FMCL), Norzinthang, initiated phenotypic diversity studies of maize genetic resources of Bhutan since April 2018.

A total of 142 maize landraces, traditional maize varieties that were grown by our farmers for centuries, were collected by NBC from 17 Dzongkhags and grown together in one field in Norzinthang, Trashigang since April 2018. By the last week of July, majority of the varieties had reached late maturity stage and were ready for assessment.

A farmers’ field day was organised on August 3 to evaluate the different varieties with participation by farmers, agriculture extension staff and researchers, providing a forum for interaction between different stakeholders and encouraging the integration of farmers’ traditional knowledge into advanced genetic approaches in order to assess maize diversity in Bhutan.

The farmers and Agriculture Extension staff from five gewogs of Trashigang and Trashiyangtse along with six researchers from NBC, ARDC, Wengkhar and Khangma carried out evaluation of the field crop on the FMCL farm in Norzinthang.

The field day provided a rare opportunity for participants to observe and compare 142 local maize landraces all in one field at one time. Participants identified maize landraces with preferred traits for consumption, sale, research and development. The field day also promoted awareness on the importance of agro-biodiversity to the communities.

This collaborative project will continue till all the landraces are harvested with detailed information recorded for further analysis, interpretation and conclusion. The maize landraces will be characterised at DNA level through DNA sequencing. The collective data generated will be assessed to generate comprehensive information on the characterisation of Bhutanese maize diversity for the first time in the country in order to guide policy as well as research and development on maize.

The field day was organised by SSSA University, NBC, ARDC Wengkhar and Khangma and FMCL.

 

 

Submitted by NBC

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