Aeroponics in Bhutan
Aeroponics is a technique of growing plants in air or mist wherein the roots of the plants are suspended and sprayed with nutrient solution in the form of a mist. The nutrient solution which is supplied from a nutrient tank by a pressure pump flows back into the tank and is re-used. Aeroponics has been used initially in production of mainly vegetable crops and it is a relatively new technique especially for seed potato. The first aeroponic facility for seed potato production was established in Korea. As of today, commercial production of seed tubers using this system is already in progress in China and Korea.
Seed production can be dramatically increased in the greenhouse and it also significantly reduces the cost of production of quality seed potatoes. The aeroponics facilty at Huancayo station of CIP in Peru yields over 100 tuberlets per plant. Moreover, it was also found that aeroponic seeds yielded same as that of conventional seeds. However, aeroponics is particularly sensitive to climate.
In Bhutan, the National Potato Program (NPP) and the National Seed Centre (NSC) has started the aeroponic facility for production of seed potato tubers at the NSC complex at Paro starting April this year. It is the first of its kind in the country and also probably first in the South Asian region especially in terms of its usage in seed potato production. The facility was built using one of the greenhouses already existing at NSC. The retrofitting of the greenhouses to convert it into an aeroponic facility was financed by the World Bank through the Decentralized Rural Development Project along with training of one individual from the National Potato Program and two from National Seed Centre at the Sichuan Academy of Agricultural Sciences, China. This was taken up to revamp the formal seed production system that had collapsed in the last decade, by introducing a rapid multiplication system.
The facility is 34 m by 9 m and has a capacity of growing around 4500 plants that will be used twice a year i.e. in spring and autumn. Our target is to produce a minimum of 1.5 tons minitubers this season. With experiences gained over time, we will be able to increase production to around 5 ton. The minitubers harvested from the facility will be planted in the NSC farm at Phobjikha for further multiplication. Thereafter, it will be grown in the seed grower groupsвЂ™ farms the following season after which it will be packed and marketed or further multiplied for one more season. With this technique we could also explore the possibility of G3 seed system.
This facility is the first if its kind in the country and has a very good potential for rapid multiplication of seed potatoes. However, we need to invest in man power since aeroponic operations need knowledge, skills and dedication. Based on the experiences of NPP and NSC in the next few seasons, private businesses interested in seed potatoes, can also be encouraged to take up aeroponic technique to produce seed potatoes.
- Submitted by: Pema Wangchuk, National Potato Program Coordinator