GRASS AND LEGUME SEED PRODUCTION IN BHUTAN

Leki Dorji

Abstract

Fodder seed production in Bhutan has played an important role in the livestock development program in the country. Seeds are being produced through contract farmers mainly in 2 districts; Bumthang for temperate grasses (Dactylis glomerata, Festuca arundinacea, Lolium multiflorum) and Pema Gatshel for sub-tropical species Brachiaria ruziensis and Melinis minutiflora). The technical guidance is provided from the National Fodder Seed Production Centre based at Bumthang. Seeds are procured from the farmers and payment made based on the seed quality test.

Introduction

The success of the Royal Government of Bhutanís (RGOB) livestock development programme depends largely on whether the countryís livestock population can be adequately and economically fed, and whether the animal husbandry products can be disposed at a premium price by the farmers. Both these factors depend greatly on the availability of adequate quantity and quality of fodder at an economically feasible cost. Hence, the need to develop the fodder resources in order to achieve better feeding standards has gained due recognition during the last three decades. In this line, pasture development programme were initiated in the early 1970. Over the years, different research centre were established to introduce and evaluate many species of fodder, and distribute promising species in the extension. Seeds production became an important component of the fodder research programme, and over the year, Bhutanese farmers have been able to produce seeds for/from a number of fodder species for different agro-ecological zones.

Species of fodder seeds: After the initiation of fodder research program, Bhutan has been able to successfully produce seed from the eight following species of fodder seeds.

®      Cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata) Amba

®      Tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) Barcel

®      Italian ryrgrass (Lolium multiflorum) Defo

®      White clover (Trifolium repens) Ladino

®      Ruzi grass (Bracharia ruziziensis) developed in Kerala

®      Molasses grass (Melinis minutiflora) developed in Pema Gatshel

®      Oat (Avena sativa) developed in Paro

®      Swede (Brassica nepas) developed by RNR-RC, Jakar

Major fodder seed producing areas in Bhutan: Currently seeds of the temperate species are produced mainly by the farmers of Bumthang Dzongkhag and those of sub-tropical species by the farmers of Pema Gatshel Dzongkhag.

Materials and methods

Existing seed production practices/technologies: A package of practices has been developed for temperate fodder seed production in Bumthang. The nurseries are established in May/June that is 2-3 months prior to the transplanting date to allow the plants to attain the desired heights. The nurseries are established at a rate of 100 m2 for an acre of land. The seeds for the nurseries are broadcasted at a rate of 400 g for cocksfoot, and 800 g for tall fescue and Italian rye grass. Once the seedlings are 2-3 months old, they are transplanted to rows with a planting distance of 60 cm and a plant to plant distance of 20 cm. White clover is sown in between the rows of grasses to suppress weed, enrich the soil through nitrogen fixation as well as to provide fodder for the householdís use and extra source of income through seed collection and sale.

Nevertheless, for sub-tropical grass species, farmers establish their seed production plots/fields on tseri (Bush fallow) and Kamshing (dry land) by broadcasting. Furthermore, farmers also sow grass seeds in sequential farming after harvesting their crops, basically maize and foxtail millet. Farmers are supplied with 4kg for Ruzi grass and 3kg for Molasses grass (Basic Seeds). The grasses are sown in May/June and the seeds harvested in November/December and January. Over the years, it was noticed that seed yields from Tseri are higher than those of from the Kamshing.

Seed Production System

Fodder seeds species are produced through selected farmers, purchased by the centre and distributed to the extension on demand.

Selection of Contract Seed Growing Farmers: Farmers for seed production and selected through the Gup (Village Head) based on the following terms and conditions:

(a)    The foundation seed for raising the seedling nursery must be supplied by the centre.

(b)   The farmer must arrange his or her own fertilizer. In case the fails to acquire fertilizers the Centre will assist the farmer in procuring fertilizers on cash payment basis.

(c)    The farmer shall sow white clover seed in-between the rows of Cocksfoot and Tall fescue grass seed crops not later than at the beginning of the next rainy season and take up clover seed collection on compulsory basis (temperate area).

(d)   For fencing of the seed crop field, if loan is required to purchase barbed wire, the farmer can apply to the Bhutan Development Finance Corporation (BDFC) under Dzongkhag Administration through the NFSPC to avail loan. Barbed wire will be sold from NFSPC on cash payment basis.

(e)    The crop has to be raised strictly according to the instructions and technical guidance given by the centre from time to time and the farmer shall have no objection to the visit of officials from the centre.

(f)     The farmer shall keep the crop free from weeds and other unwanted plants throughout the growth period.

(g)    The seed field shall not be used for grazing at any time of the year without prior consultation with the centre. Fodder produced from the seed crop after harvest shall be utilized through cut and carry system only.

(h)    The contract period is only for three years for all species, except Italian rye grass for which the period is only for a year, produce seed and sell to the centre. After that they may use the fields for any other farming.

(i)      The farmer shall offer all the seeds to the centre after being adequately dried and cleaned. All the seed must be delivered to the centre before November in-case of temperate species and at the end of February in case of the sub-tropical species.

(j)     The price of seeds shall be based on the quality of the seeds (e.g. Germination %, Purity % and Moisture %).

(k)   If farmer fails to abide by these terms and conditions, the centre reserves the right to cancel the contact.

(l)      If a farmer failed to plant the basic seeds given by the centre, they must the seeds to centre, or pay the cost of seeds.

Once the farmers are made aware of the necessary criteria they must fulfill to venture in fodder seed production, the produce of which shall be purchased by the National Fodder Seed Production Centre (NFSPC), and have agreed to the terms and conditions set by the centre, they are registered as Contact Seed Growers, for a term of three years. Thereafter, the centre prepares production plan, and monitors and provides technical backstopping to the farmers in quality seed production. However for white clover seed production, the farmers are not required to register as seed growers. This is basically due to the technical problem encountered in its seed production. Any interested farmer can collect white clover seeds and sell directly to the centre or through appointed agents. In fact to enable the centre to procure adequate amounts of the seed, the centre also pay an additional Nu.10 per kg on top of Nu.165 per kg of the seed, as a commission and/or handling charges to the appointed agents.

The centre provides the Registered Seed Growers with the Certified Basic Seeds of the first generation that has been imported and maintained by the Centre. All the Basic Seeds are proved free of cost to the registered growers.

Results

Procurement of Seed:Farmers are paid a pre-fixed price for their seeds. The procurement prices are based on effective production costs, and are revised from time to time. The farmers deliver the seed till the road point on an appointed date for procurement by the centre. Seed samples are taken from every lot and the lots are kept separate until the seed payment is made to the farmers. Amounts of different seeds procured by the centre during the last 5 years are given in Table 1

Table 1: Seeds procured from contract farmers and central farms

Name of species

         

Total

Cocksfoot

1262

3528

3405

4937

6052

19184

Tall fescue

2160

2513

2278

3508

3951

14410

Italian rye

147

1609

2577

3018

3920

11271

White clover

1262

1256

390

608

347

3863

Oat

0

0

0

2550

7629

10179

Ruzi

1354

2249

1688

3232

3207

11730

Molasses

1450

3171

484

0

0

5105

Stylo

0

0

0

0

159

†††† 159

Total

7635

14326

10822

17853

25265

75901

Seed Quality Control:All grasses and legume seeds procured from farmers (RSG) are tested for quality in the Seed Testing Laboratory at the Centre, before they are paid. The seed samples taken during the procurement are tested as per the rules of ISTA. The following standard has been set for quality seed payment and this has been based on the experience made over the past seven years by the centre.

Crops

Moisture

Purity

Germination

Rate/kg

Nu.

White clover

9 % & below

85 %

60 % & above

217.00

Cocksfoot

11 % & below

85 %

70 % & above

60.00

Tall fescue

11 % & below

75 %

70 % & above

50.00

Italian rye

11 % & below

85 %

70 % & above

36.00

Oat

11 % & below

99 %

90 % & above

22.00

Ruzi

11 % & below

80 %

60 % & above

60.00

Molasses

11 % & below

55 %

68 % & above

136.00

Stylo

     

100.00

Seed Supply and Disposal: The seed demands are collected from the Dzongkhags and Central farms for three to four months in advance of every cropping year. This permits the Centre to prepare standard mixture, packing and to arrange the seed supply in time. Seed is supplied on cash and carry system to the Dzongkhags and then the Dzongkhags supply to the farmers on fully subsidized basis.

Table-II Total amount of seed procured and sold to the extension from 1997-2001

Year

Seed Procured Mt.

Seed sold in Mt.

1997-98

7,635

15,169

1998-99

14,326

10,554

1999-00

10,822

12,714

2000-01

17,853

17,345

2001-02

25,265

††9,563 (till 28.2.2002)

Total

75,901

65,345

The benefits to the seed contract farmers: Following are some of the major benefits derived by the contact seed growers.

        Higher cash income per growers

        Easy market and fast cash income

        Free basis seed for the establishment of seed field

        Free white clover seed and inoculants for inter-raw cultivation

        Arrangement and supply of fertilizer up to road point with free transportation cost.

        Easy access to fencing materials

        Free technical guidance/training/workshop.

Discussion

Fodder seed production through contract farmers is the easiest and the cheapest way of producing fodder seeds. Till date the centre has been able to fully meet the demands from the extension for all the fodder species released for used in the extension. Nevertheless, the success of the program depends to a great extent on the interest of the farmers who needs to be constantly guided and encourage on fodder seed production program. It will pay to encourage farmers to form fodder seed growers Associations in future. Further, the centre needs to develop its manpower, especially in the field of sub-tropical fodder seed production.

The followings are some of the constraints faced by the farmers in fodder seed production program.]

- Wild animals (Monkey and wild boars) destroying the seed field

- Lack of technical knowledge, especially in sub-tropical legume seed production.

- Decline in farmerís interest in white clover seed collection.

Acknowledgment

I wish to express my sincere gratitude to 5th Temperate Asia Pasture Network (TAPAFON), FAO and Royal Government of Bhutan for organizing the meeting successfully. I would also thanks to Coordinator of TAPAFON who has taken us the field visit in various place seeing different views of farmers. Lastly I would again thanks to all participants who are attended meeting with sharing each other knowledge of the Himalayan region.

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