Project Component #2 Increasing efficiency of potato production
About 60% of the population of Tajikistan lives below the poverty line, with many of the poor concentrated in rural areas. Farmers and researchers need assistance in learning about improved and robust crop varieties with tolerance to abiotic and biotic factors, in order to mitigate drought and other serious effects of climate change anticipated for the region. Potato is one of the main crops in Central Asia and is known as “the second bread” in this region. Potato has been grown in Tajikistan since the beginning of the 20th century, and is currently present in all soil and climatic areas of the country. Total cultivation area for this crop on public and private farms reached 35,500 ha in 2014. A total of 853,700 tons of potatoes were produced there in 2014. The average crop yield per hectare was 23.6 tons. Public farms produced 91,730 tons (10.7%), Dekhan farms produced 343,450 tons (40.3%) and individual households produced 418,599 tons (49%). In general, the area under potato cultivation is about 5% of cropland (source: the Academy of Agricultural Sciences). Accumulated traditional knowledge and skills among potato growers provides an opportunity for easy adoption of new potato production technologies and varieties. The Government of Tajikistan has identified potato as a high value income-generating crop and its policies are supportive.1
The main potato-growing areas are mountainous and piedmont areas where the soil and climate are the most favorable for the crop. Potatoes are grown in various soils, but the best yields are in well-cultivated, light- and medium-textured loams. The “nutritional productivity” of the crop is especially high: for every cubic meter of water applied in cultivation, the potato produces 5,600 calories of dietary energy, compared to 3,860 in maize, 2,300 in wheat, and just 2,000 in rice. Potato also has significant levels of vitamin C, iron and zinc. In the Central Asia region, potato is among the crops with the greatest potential for food security and income generation, but there is a great need for high-yielding potato varieties that are virus resistant, drought-, heat- and saline-tolerant and therefore adapted to local growing conditions. Introduction of such varieties could contribute to economic growth in Tajikistan.
The most important strengths of the potato sector in Tajikistan include the fact that the climate is quite suitable, especially in Khatlon province, where two growing seasons are available for crop production. In Khatlon, potato can be grown in the fall season when many other vegetables cannot. Nonetheless, farmers have poor access to seed for the second growing season. Thus, this project will explore the feasibility of using seed potatoes harvested in June for the second season. To do this, seed dormancy must be broken with chemical or physical interventions and/or varieties with very short dormancy must be used.
Activities to be implemented:
- Introduction of new drought-tolerant, day-neutral potato clones with characteristics suitable for the Khatlon area.
- Arrangement of demonstration plots of early potato production and second growing season potato production using techniques to break dormancy. The process must take place in the field and will encourage farmers to use these techniques as a business module for profit.
- Development and introduction of best farm practices, including training, demo days, and consulting, etc.
- Development of materials for publishing recommendations on:
- Innovative technologies of early potato production using autumn planting, early ripening varieties, and low tunnels;
- Introduction of techniques of positive and negative selection for producing potato seeds;
- Techniques to artificially break dormancy of freshly harvested potato tubers in order to use them as seeds for the second growing season; and
- Techniques of potato production in high tunnels covered with insect nets to protect potato plants from insects and to provide shade during cultivation in the second growing season.
- Identify at least three cooperating farmers who are interested in the storage of potato seeds and the use of these seeds for the second growing season through the breaking of dormancy. The project will provide farmers with technical assistance on different approaches for breaking dormancy, including chemical treatment, temperature alternation and use of CoolBot technology.
- Support registration of potato clones and recommendation for production.
- Disseminate technologies via USAID self-help groups
Results to be achieved:
- Drought-tolerant, day-neutral clones of potato selected, tested in farms, recommended and registered or prepared for registration in Tajikistan.
- At least two new promising clones of potato recommended for registration.
- Innovative technologies in a) early potato production using autumn planting, b) early ripening varieties, c) low tunnels, d) breaking of dormancy, and e) nets to protect plants from pests, developed, tested, and disseminated among local farmers.
- 500 local agricultural specialists and farmers trained on production of potatoes under low tunnel, breaking dormancy and the use of nets protecting plants from pests.
- Potato productivity increased up to 35% in the second growing season.
- At least three local farmers to apply new technologies to use freshly harvested potatoes for second cropping season as a business model.