Herbicides Can Help in Making Tibet Food Secure

Farmland in Tibet

Farmland in Tibet

Tibet is isolated from the outside world by physical inaccessibility. Physical remoteness is exacerbated by the lack of roads. However, even though some roads exist, the long distance contributes to remoteness. In such circumstances, to produce enough food within the region and to minimize the dependency of acquiring food through exchange are the essence of food security. Crop yields in Tibet could be much higher. It is suspected that uncontrolled weeds are a major cause of low yields in Tibet and herbicides could be an effective technology to making Tibet food secure.

“In the south of the Tibet Autonomous Region of China there is a network of valleys where intensive agriculture is practiced. Although considered highly productive by Tibetans, farm incomes in the region are low, leading to a range of government initiatives to boost grain and fodder production. … Average yields for the main grain crops are around 4.0 t/ha for spring barley and 4.5 t/ha for winter wheat, significantly lower than should be possible in the environment.

…there is a large gap between attainable yields in Tibet and those that are typically attained on farms in the cropping zone.

There is a need to identify the most important weeds on Tibetan farms and the yield penalties they impose. If weeds do prove to be a significant constraint, as is suspected, a program to improve the availability and affordability of herbicides to Tibetan farmers, and to train farmers in their effective and safe use, should lead to crop yield increases. There is also a need to promote integrated weed management practices that combine cultural and manual control methods with the use of clean seed, targeted rotations, and herbicides.

In recent decades, there has been a major shift around the world towards no-till farming systems, in which weeds are controlled using herbicides before crops are sown into undisturbed soil using no-till seed drills. Such seeding systems would likely offer several benefits in Tibet: viz. lower crop establishment costs (e.g. for fuel and labour), less disturbance to soil structure, less disturbance to levelness of fields, and the option of retaining more stubble without impeding sowing for improved soil health.”

Authors: Paltridge, N., et al.
Affiliation: The University of Adelaide, Australia.
Title: Agriculture in Central Tibet: an assessment of climate, farming systems, and strategies to boost production.
Source: Crop & Pasture Science. 2009. 60:627-639.

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