CAMBODIA could drastically improve its rice yields by improving its irrigation infrastructure and convincing farmers to adopt modern agriculture practices, researchers said in a study.
The paper – published on Monday in Rice Science, an agriculture journal – was conducted in Kampong Chhnang in 2011 by agriculture expert Dr Volker Kleinhenz and the Provincial Department of Agriculture. Executed correctly, Dr Kleinhenz argues that the paper’s suggestions could potentially double rice yields in some areas.
Researchers made several recommendations, including the movement of irrigation systems for rain-dependent farmland away from rivers and encouraging farmers with land along rivers to plant an additional crop a season. Farmers should also switch to planting higher-value rice varieties.
“Right now, what some farmers do each season is they save a portion of their seeds to replant the following season – and some of these seeds were developed in the 1960s,” Dr Kleinhenz told the Post.
Because of genetic erosion, seeds that are continually replanted eventually lose their yield, Dr Kleinhenz explained. “These are basically only good for [private] consumption and not for selling.”
According to UN Food and Agriculture Office statistics, the Kingdom’s annual average rice yield of 2.8 tonnes per hectare is way below the world average of 4.3 tonnes per hectare.
Yang Saing Koma, president of the Cambodian Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture, said the recommendations were a step in the right direction, considering the target Prime Minister Hun Sen has set for Cambodia – to export a million tonnes of milled rice by 2015.
But Koma added that it was important to let farmers know that producing rice commercially needs a different approach to those presently used.
“Farmers should become more market-oriented and switch to high value varieties,” he said. “It’s about changing attitudes – and transforming a subsistence farmer into a commercial farmer.”