To even get close to any sort of future climate forecast, we need meteorological data from the last few decades. This is one of the bottle necks of carrying out climate change studies in Bhutan: an agriculture researcherA potato. Nice little thing… round and yellow or red-skinned.
You buy it from the market and prepare your favorite kewa datshi. Simple, isn’t it?
Maybe not. The humble simple potato is facing climate change wrath. Its production is being affected, thanks to climate change.
This is not a joke. This is science. Climate change is pushing potato farming up the hills, literally.
With changing climate there is also a change in potato production, and will continue to change around the world, and Bhutan in not an exception.
Reports say that production of potatoes is already migrating to higher, cooler altitudes as some predictions put yield declines at up to 30% in the latter half of the 21st century.
The Council for RNR Research for Bhutan (CORRB) acknowledged that with the phenomena of climate change potato productivity may decrease due to abiotic stresses, such as heat and drought, and biotic stresses, such as pest and diseases.
“To reduce the expected adverse effects on potato growth and yield by climate change, there is a need of environmental assessments of the current potato fields so as to be able to adapt the cultivation area and seasons,” said Proffessor Kazuto Iwama, a potato scientist from Hokkaido University, Japan.
According to the Senior Research Officer, RNR-RC, Wengkhar, Pema Wangchuk, the impact of climate change is serious and Bhutan should be concerned. Studies show that the South Asian region will be affected more by drought which is the result of rising temperatures and decreasing water tables.
“In line with this, we hope to introduce drought tolerant varieties which will cope better in drought and heat-stressed conditions,” he said.
Potato hybrids are one promising response to the threat of climate change, with hopes pinned on the development of early-maturing varieties with shorter growth cycles, and Bhutan is already getting samples of various potato hybrids. This is being done with the help from the Laboratory of Field Crops Science, Hokkaido University.
Even to tolerate abiotic and biotic stresses, an improved system to propagate healthy seed tubers are required and Bhutan is on the way to get it done.
However, assessment of the effects of climate change on agriculture especially in crop production hasn’t been done in Bhutan.
“To study the impact of climate change on agriculture, especially in a mountainous country like Bhutan, is difficult as the agro-climatic conditions change rapidly over a short distance or altitude,” Pema Wangchuk said.
He also mentioned that farmers in the developing world are supposed to be more affected. “We have to realize that it will pose a grave risk to the farmers who lack the technology to adapt to the changing environment,” he added.
Where rainfall and humidity increases, so too will the threat of potato diseases, such as late blight (Phytophthora infestans), especially when combined with longer growing seasons. Bacterial wilt may also increase as the climate becomes warmer and wetter; and potato pests, including disease-carrying aphids, will survive at higher altitudes.
“To even get close to any sort of future climate forecast, we need meteorological data from the last few decades. This is one of the bottle necks of carrying out climate change studies in Bhutan,” said Pema Wangchuk.