The International Potato Center (CIP) has initiated a groundbreaking project in Cambodia, unveiling “Zero Tillage Potato Production through Rice Straw Mulch (PZTM)” in collaboration with the Fund for the Promotion of Innovation in Agriculture (i4Ag). This pioneering endeavor introduces an innovative and sustainable approach to potato farming, offering a transformative journey for farmers and heralding a more prosperous and eco-friendly future.
The PZTM project, now also implemented in Bangladesh, India, and Peru, addresses a multitude of challenges faced by potato farmers in these regions, including land degradation, water scarcity, and the impacts of climate change. The conventional practices of soil preparation, often characterized by over-exploitation and unsustainable methods, have threatened the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and food security in many agricultural areas across India, for example.
However, the innovative approach of PZTM is set to change the game. Instead of traditional soil preparation, potatoes are directly planted into unworked soil and subsequently covered with rice straw after the rice harvest. This unique method allows potatoes to mature within the rice straw, eliminating the need for tillage, and ushering in a more environmentally friendly and efficient farming process.
In Cambodia, where potatoes are primarily cultivated in Mondulkiri province, this novel approach promises increased income for farmers and job opportunities. In 2019, a $200,000 potato research center was established at the Royal University of Agriculture to conduct research on potato varieties best suited to Cambodian soil. Cambodia currently imports over 5,000 tonnes of potatoes annually, but the country’s focus on expanding potato production is set to reduce its reliance on imports.
The trial results have demonstrated that direct seeding has no significant impact on yield or quality when compared to conventional planting methods. This innovation yields far-reaching benefits. Zero tillage enhances soil fertility and carbon storage while extending the potato growing season by utilizing moisture remaining after rice harvest. It also enables the cultivation of potato varieties with longer maturation times. Furthermore, the use of rice straw as mulch conserves water, suppresses weeds, pests, and diseases, and reduces the dependency on harmful agrochemicals.
The PZTM project aligns with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by promoting sustainable agriculture, reducing poverty, and addressing climate change. It underscores the significance of sustainable intensification and agroecological practices, offering a brighter and more sustainable future for agricultural communities not only in India but also beyond. As Cambodia and other countries embrace this innovative potato farming approach, it signifies a significant step towards a more environmentally conscious and prosperous agricultural landscape.
Source: Khmer Times