Researching Better Winter Wheat varieties for Bumthang

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Two types of wheat are grown in Bhutan: winter or facultative wheat in the temperate drylands and spring wheat in sub-tropical wetlands or rice-based system. While the spring wheat received maximum research and development focus and 5 new high yielding varieties are available, winter wheat has largely been ignored although it is an important cereal for high altitude farmers and area cultivated is considerable. Of recent, the national wheat program has been paying more attention to winter wheat research and development.

RNRRDC Jakar has been conducting the Winter Wheat Varietal Improvement Program in collaboration with RNNRDC Bajo (wheat coordinating center) and International Center for Agriculture Research in Dryland Areas (ICARDA) with the aim to identify potential improved varieties vis-à-vis broadening the genetic base in the winter wheat ecosystem and provide variety choice to the farmers. The two years of vigorous on-station testing has resulted in narrowing down to potential 21 lines which need further selection.

Participatory Varietal Selection (PVS), with the farmers’ participation, has been an effective method of plant breeding in number of crops in many countries. Among the numerous benefits, the major advantage is fast tracking the varietal adoption as farmers select their own preferred varieties before the formal release. Given the success of PVS, a field day was organised at RNRRDC Jakar on 11th June, 2015. The program was attended by 30 wheat farmers, 10 each from Tang, Chumey and Chokhor geogs along with extension and research workers.

Of the 21 lines, farmers have selected the 4 best lines. The main criteria of selection were the big spike (more grains and grain weight and thus higher yield), medium plant height (reduces lodging unlike the tall local cultivar) and early maturity (reduces the loss from monsoon). These preferred attributes clearly demonstrate that farmers’ desire for varieties with such traits as alternative to their local variety. Currently, there is no improved variety for winter ecosystem. In the ensuing season (s), the seeds of these varieties will be multiplied in adequate quantities for mass promotion.

An on-farm evaluation of two varieties from Nepal that can adapt to high altitudes is also underway at Tang and Chumey under farmers’ management conditions. The new varieties look better than the local cultivar, and farmers are looking forward to cultivate in large areas in coming season. A field day is also planned in these sites to jointly assess and plan future course of actions.

 

Report by RNRRDCs Jakar and Bajo. For more information, please contact sangay128@gmail.com

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