Thursday, 21 May 2015

Rice seed producers reaping the benefit of mechanisation in central Laos

Seed production is an important component contributing to the lowland rice production and food security in Lao PDR and its neighbouring countries. Most farmers use their own seed, and after a few generations the seed quality often becomes poor. Farmers then purchase high quality seed from seed producer specialists if they are available and affordable.

Weed can be removed with rotary weeder from row crops established with transplanter. Hatkhamhien village, Khammouan. Source: Shu Fukai, Project Leader

Rice seed producers in Khammouan Province in central Laos commonly form an association within their village, and work together to improve their operations. They may be considered to belong to the private sector, as their main activities are selling seed to millers. Farmers also grow rice for grain to consume at home, and may sell to other lowland farmers.

Due to the purity and the high quality of seed required for planting the next generation of rice in the field, seed producers commonly use transplanting. They remove weeds and off-type rice manually during the growth periods. However, recent increases in farm labour costs and the lack of labourers is causing difficulty in maintaining the practice of hand transplanting in central Laos. 

An alternative method is the use of a mechanical transplanter to replace the labour-intensive, manual transplanting by hand. The mechanical transplanter is being evaluated by the National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute in Laos, and the University of Queensland in Australia, with funding from ACIAR. The project team has collaborated with seed producer associations in three villages in the Khammouan and neighbouring Bolikhamxay Provinces. This has resulted in field sizes doubling and has levelled the land for easy introduction of mechanised rice seed production.

Rice transplanter producing four rows of seedlings; Pakpung village, Bolikhamxay. Source: Shu Fukai, Project Leader

The seed producers were satisfied with the results after they established good crops through transplanting in the dry season of 2014/15. Resources to feed the transplanter for seedling preparation were a concern to the team. However, farmers realised mechanical preparation was much less physically demanding compared with the labour-intensive work of pulling seedlings and transplanting in the field. This also benefits women as they commonly look after the work. Another benefit of mechanical transplanting is the ease of weed control using rotary weeder as the transplanter forms seedlings in rows in contrast to hand transplanting.      

Rice crops have recently been harvested by combine harvester. The team are now evaluating the labour productivity gains and economic benefits due to modification of the rice fields, use of transplanters and combine harvesters. The results are looking promising.

By Professor Shu Fukai, Project Leader

Further information
Details about this project can be found through the ACIAR website:
CSE2012/077 - Mechanization and value adding for diversification of lowland cropping systems in Lao PDR and Cambodia

Friday, 8 May 2015

Counter-attacking human and pig disease in Asia

This article was written by Georgina Smith and was first published on the CIAT blogsite.

Lao PDR’s northern-most province lies among cloud-covered peaks between China to the west and Vietnam to the east. The mountains here, along the eastern edge of Phongsaly province, are cut by a narrow winding pass – a trade route with Vietnam becoming more popular amid rising demand for pig meat.

Lao PDR's northern province of Phongsaly. Source: Georina Smith/CIAT

Thursday, 7 May 2015

That's MAD!

A few weeks ago, ACIAR’s Canberra office played host to a number of partners from Indonesia and Burma (Myanmar) to participate and provide feedback in the Mobile Acquired Data (MAD) small research activity (SRA) we are engaged in.

Source: agricultures network

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

ACIAR's thoughts are with Nepal

After the devastating earthquake and after-shocks that hit Nepal on 25 April, ACIAR’s thoughts are with the Nepalese people.

Dr John Dixon from ACIAR recently spoke to ABC Rural about the anticipated impacts the earthquake will have on agricultural communities which employ up to 70% of the country’s population and accounts for 38% of GDP.

Hillside farms in Nepal are expected to have sustained extensive damage from the earthquake. Source: Conor Ashleigh & ACIAR

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Managing mandarins in Bhutan

To a foreign visitor on a sunny day in springtime, a mandarin farm in Bhutan’s mountains looks pretty close to heaven. The loudest sound is birdsong, and the only man-made noises are the chime of turning prayer wheels and the quiet snapping of hundreds of prayer flags, flapping in the breeze. However, this is no easy life. “Maintaining the farm was just too hard for me by myself,” recalls Mrs Mackum, a citrus farmer in Dagana district; “three years ago, I was ready to give up”.

Close to heaven, Mrs Mackum's citrus farm. [Source: Richard Markham, ACIAR]

Monday, 20 April 2015

Australian support for agroforestry development in Viet Nam

The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research is working with ICRAF to test new agroforestry systems in Northwest Viet Nam, explains Nguyen Thi Thanh An.

The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) has a mission to bring Australian scientists to Viet Nam and engage in collaborative research to help smallholder farmers.

‘We focus on the Northwest, South-central Coast and part of the Mekong Delta’, said Ms Nguyen Thi Thanh An, ACIAR’s Country Manager for Viet Nam.

Vietnam. Source: Google Maps

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Queensland data capture technology scoring well in Ethiopia

Researchers at the Ethiopian Institute for Agricultural Research (EIAR) are taking on the latest technologies in plant breeding including electronic data capture using Android devices (mobile phones and tablets). The technology is being used as part of a project jointly funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and ACIAR to improve their sorghum breeding program.

Every year plant breeders and plant scientists record tens of thousands of pieces of information (called datapoints) about the lines in their breeding and research trials. The datapoints correspond to measurements regularly taken on the growing plants for example plant height, date of flowering, disease symptoms, grain yield etc. Traditionally this collection of data has been recorded by hand on hard copy field books with the information being then manually entered into computers at a later stage. Both the initial data recording in the books and the subsequent transcription on computers are labour intensive and subject to human error. The need to manually enter the data into computers also delayed data analysis, and the actions taken as a result of the analysis, by several months. 

Mr Michael Hassall, a programmer from Q-DAF, training the Ethiopian sorghum researchers in data management at the EIAR research station. Photo: Q-DAF