EXPERIENCES WITH OAT AT TEMPERATE AND HIGH ELEVATIONS OF BHUTAN
Renewable Natural Resources Research Centre
farmers grow wheat after harvest of high altitude paddy for feeding
their livestock during dry winter months when the fodder availability
becomes scarce. Oat (Avena sativa) is an introduced crop to
is an introduced crop in
a few years ago, oat as fodder was not popular except with few farmers
of Dopshari at Paro. Farmers in some parts of
Traditionally all the farmers at high altitude grow winter cereals (wheat/barley) for feeding animal during lean period. These cereals are grown after the high altitude rice harvest where the paddy field stays fallow for almost 5-6 months. The fodder is mainly cut and stall-fed. The yak herders also grow wheat/barley during summer in the yak night pen and preserved as hay for feeding the stock in winter.
Research work carried on Oats
On farm test was conducted during 1996 to compare oats with the traditional fodder crop local wheat. The trial was sown in the first week of November after rice harvest at elevations of 2200 masl. The result obtained is presented in table 1.
Table 1: Fodder production under rice system
Management: surface irrigation was provided to all plots at an interval of 3-4 weeks. Urea (N fertilizer) at the rate 20 kg N at the time of sowing and after first harvest was applied.
Oat was also tested under relay seeding in rice system at Mebari, Chukha (1820m) during 1997-98. Green yield recorded 2.7 t/ha and report published in the Proceedings of 4th. National Livestock Research Coordination Workshop and Tropical Grasslands (2001) Volume 35,235-240) of the RNR RC, Jakar.
A study was conducted on evaluating cereals for winter fodder production at Soe yaksa (4000m) during 2001 (May to September). The study was aimed at evaluating performance of various cereal fodder crops and then to find out the suitable species to overcome the fodder shortage during winter season. Seeds were sown in 8 rows with a distance of 20 cm between the rows, and with the row length of 2.5m. The trial was sown in the yak winter night-pen. The fresh yield of different cereal crop with 3 replicates and 8 treatments are presented in table 2.
Table 2: Fresh yield of fodder crop (4000m)
Before the trial was harvested, the herders were asked to assess on the selection of species that are best for hay crop in future. The score given by the herders were based on physical observations and table 3 shows the top three species selected by the herders.
Table 3: Species preference by the herders in future
A similar study is on going in the RNR Research Center’s adopted village at Khasadrapchu in Thimphu in rice system. The trial was sown on 20/11/2001 after the rice harvest. Two harvests were already made to assess the Dry matter production. A field day was conducted involving all farmers of the adopted village, extension of Thimphu district and research staff from Yusipang. During the field day, the group was taken to farmers’ oat fields and research managed plots. Crop cuts were demonstrated and differences of fodder production under farmers’ managed and research managed plots were presented to the group. Farmers were also asked to assess the selection of preferred species for future planning/selection of varieties. The score given by the farmers were exactly same as of the score given by the yak herders (table 3).
Table 4: shows the difference of fodder production between farmers’ managed and research managed plots.
The difference of yield is mainly attributed to sowing date, frequent irrigation and N application.
Oat in extension program
Under the Feed and Fodder Development program of the Ministry of Agriculture, farmers are given free inputs (perennial pasture seeds), fodder tree seedlings and technical guidance on enrichment of crop residues, particularly paddy straw. Land, being the basic input is the greatest limitation for pasture development. Farmers give first preference to cultivation of food crops in smallholding is well understood. Keeping such limitations in mind, the livestock research program has been seriously concerned to find out other alternatives of growing fodder crops under orchards, identifying promising fodder species that can be grown in fallow period etc. Oat although was not in the approved list of free inputs supply of the Ministry of Agriculture, it was identified as one of the potential crop to serve as an important winter fodder crop in rice system. Of late, the oat seed is distributed free of cost to the farmers. Depending on the elevations, oat could be used as summer or winter grown fodder.
Adoption rate of Oat by farmers
About 80% of farmers in Dopshari in Paro grow oats with the minimum area of 1-2 langdos (4 langdos = 1 acre). Whereas in the rest of the blocks adoption rate is low to almost nil (RNR RC, Yuispang Biennial report, (1998-2000). During the year 1999-2000, RC, Yusipang distributed 150 kg Oat and 100 kg rye (Secale cereale) seed to Paro and Thimphu farmers for extension-led on-farm, farmer-designed and farmer-managed trial. A total of 51 farmers participated. Technical guidance was provided both from extension and research.
Three field days were organized jointly with the districts to create awareness on winter fodder cultivation. 105 farmers have participated in the field day. Participants were both oat growers and non-growers. The oat growers reported milk increase if 1-2 bottles just by supplementing 5- 8 kg of oat green fodder. From the subsequent year, the demand for oat seed was increased from the farmers in both districts. The demand is actually higher from the semi-commercial milk production areas.
Total of oat seed supplied to farmers through District Livestock Extension Program in Thimphu and Paro for last 2 years is presented in table 5.
Table 5: Oat seed supplied to farmers through extension program.
Oat Seed Production
At present, some farmers of Dopshari village in Paro district are producing seed. These farmers were selling oat seed for quite sometime to Government farms and as well as to private entrepreneurs. During 2001, three farmers sold total oat seed of 5582 kg at the rate of Nu 20/ per kilogram. The farmers have generated cash income of total Nu. 111,640.00 (source: Paro Dzongkhag Livestock Sector). The seed is mainly produced in the rice field during the fallow period.
A very good example is Dopshari village at Paro. The farmers themselves have managed oat since more than 20 years. It may be important to supply oat seed in the villages where it is new crop. Oat seed can easily be produced in the rice based system as the technology has been proven and already in practice. Only the farmers need to do is to save one of oat terrace for seed production for their own use. The seed production at 4000m is a problem and to make the cereal promotion sustainable, it is crucial to carry out seed production trial of promising species at high elevation.
Oat is becoming is very popular fodder crop after rice harvest in Thimphu and Paro. Traditional fodder crop wheat is now declining as the fodder production and palatability is low compared to oats. However some of the farmers still grow substantial area of wheat for flour and brewing purpose. Demand for the oat seed from the yak herders are also on increase in short span of the time.
Constraints in growing Oats
In the high altitude areas, oats are cultivated in yak night pen, which are poorly fenced due to lack of sufficient fencing materials. At present, herders use Juniper shingles to fence the pen, which is not healthy from the ecological as well as sustainability point of view in the long run. Hence, it is vital to work with farmers to find out the alternatives like Logmashing (native willow shrub), which can be used as live fence. Yaks do not graze this shrub. In the lower elevations, some farmers have problem of irrigation.
Scope for introduction of new outstanding varieties
is potential for testing new varieties. Oat cultivars like Stampede
and Naked were tested recently in experimental sites have proven superior
variety than the present recommended oat (Fodder Oat
1995 reported 20t/ha of green fodder in Gilgit,
Dry long winter period affects the productivity of livestock. Fodder scarcity is severe from January through April. Production is at its lowest during these months and in the case of yak, milk production is low to nil. Yak herders have also reported high mortality due to fodder scarcity. It is therefore very important that we look into solving fodder shortage through introduction of high yielding/promising fodder species so that the farmers are not at the losing end.
Proceedings of the Fourth RNR Research, Extension & Irrigation Review and Planning Workshop 20-22 January 1998, Yusipang, Thimphu.
of the Fourth Meeting of Temparate Asia Pasture and Fodder Netwrok (TAPAFON)
Biennial Report 1998-2000, RNR RC, Yusipang.
Livestock Research Program, Fodder Production in
Evaluating Cereals for Winter Fodder Production (T.Gyaltsen, N.Wangchuk &G.Thinley) paper presented during the National Livestock Coordination Meeting, Gelephu, January 2002.
Dost, Fodder Production in the north