Background information: In the face of the emerging challenges of climate change, the Evolutionary Plant Breeding (EPB) trials have been introduced in Bhutan in 2019 through the EPB project which is funded by International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) through Biodiversity International. Bhutan is one of the partner countries participating in the Global Evolutionary Plan Breeding Project along with Nepal, Jordan, Ethiopia Iran and Uganda. In Bhutan, the EPB project is nationally coordinated by NBC in collaboration with National Centre for Organic Agriculture (NCoF), Yusipang and Agriculture Research and Development Centres (ARDC Bajo and Samtenling) and Dzongkhags and Gewogs agriculture sector.
What is EPB?. Evolutionary Plant Breeding (EPB) is a type of breeding method which creates and maintains a high degree of polymorphic population. It is one of the methods for accelerating the development of climate-resilient and sustainably high-performance crop varieties. Evolutionary Populations are formed by assembling seed stocks with diverse evolutionary origins.
What consisted of evolutionary populations: The evolutionary populations for rice were prepared by mixing the six most popular traditional varieties (Janam, Dumbja, Themja, Zhuchum, Shabjakuchum, Hungrel Maap) taken from the Genebank, NCoA and farmers. The crop populations with a high level of genetic diversity are being subjected to the forces of natural selection. Thus, evolving crop populations are expected to be climate-resilient and sustainably high-performance crop varieties.
Field Day: Since the crop reached harvesting stage, the National Centre for Organic Agriculture, Yusipang in collaboration with National Biodiversity Centre (NBC) and Dzongkhag and Gewog Agriculture Sector organized Field Day on “Participatory assessment of evolutionary plant breeding (EPB) trial on high altitude rice” at Tsento Shari under Tsento Gewog, Paro on 1st November.
The Field Day was participated by a total of 21 rice-growing farmers consisting of 15 females and 6 males from Tsento Gewogs along with the Gewog Agriculture Extension Officer, and researchers from the National Centre for Organic Agriculture-Yusipang and NBC.
During the field day, farmers were briefed on the importance of maintaining crop diversity in the on-farm and EPB project activities and the importance of the trial. Then the farmers were grouped into a group of men and women to account for differences if any in the gender-based preferred traits for rice. The field day provided a rare opportunity for participants to observe and compare the Evolutionary Population mixture and 5 pure line rice varieties namely, Khangma map, Jakar ray naap, Yusiray map 1, Yusiray kaap 3 and Dumja. The 3 best varieties (Khangma Maap, Yusiray Kaap 3, Yusiray Maap 1) were selected. The phenotypic data like plant height, number of tillers and yield were collected.
Such EPB trials are also ongoing at Kabjisa in Punakha for rice and Mendelgang in Tsirang for rice and beans.