Germplasm - Collection of local vegetable varieties: Treasure for income generation and food diversification in the uplands of Lao PDR

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Vegetables provide healthy food with a high vitamin and micro-nutrient value. They contribute to a diverse diet, improve nutritional status, and lead to better health conditions for people in the northern uplands of the Lao PDR. Vegetables are mainly grown in permanent home gardens, in riverbank gardens during the dry season, on irrigated fields, and in mixed cropping systems with upland rice. Vegetables have good market potential, primarily as fresh products at local markets. Price analysis carried out at the largest market in Vientiane over four years indicates good income can be earned from crops like tomato and leafy vegetables, e.g. coriander, dill, and lettuce, especially during the rainy season. During the rains, prices rise by between 290% and 828%. Open-pollinated varieties of vegetables produced in the uplands could supply the local Lao market and provide an opportunity for export to neighbor countries in the future. Some varieties such as brassicaceae and carrots require a cool climate for flowering. Special seed production areas could be tested and established for these varieties. There is high biodiversity in the upland areas. To identify suitable species for the uplands, agro-ecologic conditions like soil, topography, altitude, rainfall and temperature should be surveyed, along with socio-ecological conditions like local traditions, food preferences and market access. Between 2002 and 2006 a research team from Haddokkeo Horticulture Research Center (HHRC), in cooperation with the German Development Service (DED), conducted nine trips collecting local vegetable varieties from 76 districts across the 18 provinces of the Lao PDR. The researchers visited 281 villages, home to various ethnic groups. They collected seeds from traditional farmer varieties and from examples that had been selected by farmers and adapted to their local environmental conditions. The team took samples from upland fields (hai), home gardens, home seed stores and local markets. As a result a vegetable gene bank with a total of 2,140 entries has been established at HHRC. The seeds are stored in refrigerators at 5º C. All relevant data, including village, district, province, farmer`s name, ethnic group, local name of the crop etc., is stored in a database. Part of the gene bank material, including from chilli, tomato, lettuce, yard-long bean, and cucumber, has been applied in screenings and variety tests under lowland conditions at HHRC. A detailed description of eggplant biodiversity, from collection across the whole country, is under research. After several years new varieties such as rainy season tomatoes could be released to Lao farmers for seed multiplication. In the future, screenings comparable to those used for rice research at the Lao IRRI project should be conducted for vegetable varieties in the northern provinces to identify varieties suitable for upland conditions. The gene bank offers the opportunity to exchange upland varieties around the different mountainous areas of the Lao PDR.
Year: 2006
Language: English
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