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View the documentReview of current research on agriculture in the highlands of northern Thailand

Review of current research on agriculture in the highlands of northern Thailand

Pisit Voraurai

The Faculty of Agriculture of Kasetsart University is the pioneer in research in the field of applied agricultural science in the highlands. This work was initiated in 1970. Nevertheless, forestry research began long before this by the Faculty of Forestry of the same university. Since research work carried out in only one institute. knowledge concerning the highlands was therefore limited.

The lack of knowledge of highland agriculture may have been an obstacle to the study of agro-forestry systems during the past three years. However, in the last five years agricultural research in the highlands has spread more rapidly and various institutes have become involved in addition to the staff of Kasetsart University, for instance, the staff of Chiang Mai University, the Institute of Applied Scientific Research Corporation of Thailand, the Department of Agriculture, and the Royal Forestry Department.

The results of pooling ideas and the ability to carry them out enable agriculturists to arrive at definite conclusions about suitable methods of plant cultivation and raising certain kinds of animals. These results were sufficient to start work on agroforestry in the highlands.

No fewer than 20 research projects on agriculture in the highlands are being carried out.

1. Deciduous Fruit

Stone fruits

Peach

The studies were carried out both on the varieties which had long been introduced into the highlands and are generally grown by the hill peoples and also on 87 varieties of newly introduced ones.

Many aspects of peaches which were on varietal trial and different cultural practices, for seed germination. pruning, thinning, grafting. and finally, rootstock selection were examined.

Furthermore, the project produced the new product of canned local peaches in syrup.

From the studies it was possible to successfully select those varieties which were suitable for growing in the highlands.

Besides peaches, several kinds of stone fruits had also been introduced, including 20 varieties of nectarines and 2 varieties of Japanese apricots. Both of these stone fruits showed very promising results. In addition, 23 varieties of plums, 17 varieties of almonds, 19 varieties of common apricots and 13 varieties of sweet cherries had also been introduced into the highlands.

Pome fruits

Two kinds of pome fruits were introduced. These were 45 varieties of apples and 31 varieties of pears. A study on their growth performance was conducted.

A study concerning apple rootstock was also undertaken.

Persimmon

Forty-eight varieties of Chinese persimmon were introduced for both varietal and for rootstock studies. The results obtained indicated that some varieties of persimmon tried were suitable for cultivation in the highlands.

2. Pyrethrums

The first step of this project was to grow Pyrethrum var. Shirayuki from Japan and for the study of flower and pyrethrin production. After the possibility of pyrethrin production was established. investigations were then made on cultural practices regarding time of planting, spacing. fertilization, and the effects of nutrients on flower yield.

Two other aspects of this study are investigation of the management of this crop concerning the intercropping system and also a study on slope effect.

The results of these studies showed clearly that pyrethrum can be grown in the highlands of the northern part of Thailand.

3. Strawberry

Seventeen varieties of strawberry were introduced and grown to find out their yielding ability, the possibility of producing strawberry 'off season', and its daughter plant production.

4. Coffee Arabica

The coffee varieties employed in the project came from two sources: those introduced into Thailand about twenty years ago and 30 varieties of both pure lines and hybrids which were introduced more recently. The plant materials introduced were first used in a study of plant selection for rust-resistance.

It was found that the variety introduced twenty years ago was most promising. Moreover, it was also found that those pure lines from India were rust-resistant. A study was also carried out to solve the problem of crooked root systems and to find shady plants (trees) or crops which would provide suitable shade for coffee trees. In addition, studies were also conducted on mineral nutrition and the pathology and entomology of coffee plants.

5. Vegetables for Seed Production

A study has been carried out on varietal trial of cabbage. Chinese cabbage. broccoli, and cauliflower. The study was done on their growth in terms of fresh weight and seed production of Chinese cabbage, broccoli. cauliflower, lettuce, and Chinese radish.

6. Onions

Fifteen varieties of onions were introduced for varietal trial and also for the study of the effects of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium on their yields and quality.

7. Legumes for the Highlands

The work in this project dealt with plant introduction, evaluation. and yield trial of 82 varieties of soya bean; 133 varieties of mung bean; 38 varieties of groundnut; 538 entries of common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris); 169 cultivars of lentil (Lens esculenta); 79 cultivars of chick pea (Cicer arietinum); 123 cultivars of cowpea (Vigna unguiculata); 11 varieties of pigeon pea (Cajanua cajan); and more than 200 cultivars of broad bean (Vicia faba). Moreover, these studies also included experimentation on nutrients of N, P, K, and also trace elements in order to understand their effects on the yield of several kinds of the tested legumes.

The studies of crop management. e.g.. planting date and cultural practices, were also undertaken.

8. Oilseeds

One hundred and eighty-three varieties of highland castor bean and sunflower were employed for the studies of their growth in general and also on the planting date as well as yield.

9. Mushrooms

These studies on mushroom were undertaken under both laboratory conditions and field conditions. concerning spawn composition and cultural practices on Shiitake mushroom (Lentinus edodes) and button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus).

10. Essential Oil

These experiments were conducted on agronomic study and varietal trial of Chrysanthemum morifolium. Cymbopogon nardus. Mentha spp. Eucalyptus spp., Pelargonium spp. and Rosa damascena.

11. Insecticidal Plants

Plants suspected to be insecticidal were collected for toxicity tests. The most promising plants were grown in the highlands for growth study. It was found that 20 species grew well. The next steps of research will be on the testing of cultural practices of the plants.

12. Crops and Plants for Dye Production

The research in this project involves six kinds of plants for dye, i.e.. marigold, curcuma, red beet, carrot. safflower, and dahlia.

13. Medicinal Plants

In this project. the aim of the study was to find those plants which have a potentiality to yield medicine. The plants studied were of nine kinds: Curcuma (two species), Zingiber (two species), Alpina. Gloriosa. Kaempferia Piper and Plumbago.

14. Tea Project

Studies on cultural practices for tea production have been undertaken.

15. Nut Project

Several kinds of nuts-almonds, macadamia nuts, Chinese chestnuts. filberts, walnuts, pecans, araucarias. and Malabar chestnuts-were introduced for both growth and cultural practices studies.

16. Multiple Cropping

Eight systems of multiple cropping have been investigated in order to find out the return of each system as well as the ecological problems.

17. Wild Silkworm

Tests were carried out of the effects of different kinds of food plants, i.e. wild apple. apple, peach, and parchard, on the growth and development of the Eri silkworm. The study was, moreover. concerned with the conditions suitable for wild silkworm culture.

18. Apiculture

The studies emphasized various methods and various plants which would be suitable for honey production. Simultaneously, the bees were beneficial agents for pollination.

19. Pasture

The pasture project was aimed at the improvement of Imperata grassland for grazing. Not only grass but also legumes were introduced to test for the response of fertilizers on dry matter and also the grazing of these tested crops. The studies in this project also included pasture in relation to forestry and were also extended to feeding swine.

20. Flower and Ornamental Plants

More than 50 kinds of both flower and ornamental plants have been employed in this project for the studies of seed, flower. plant, and/or bulb production.

As can be seen from all the agricultural researches undertaken in the highlands which are being carried out at present, it is believed that the results obtained will subtantially support the work in agro-forestry.