Mekong Delta’s farmers apply measures to recover from drought, salinity

July 04, 2024 - 08:46
Trần Văn Phước, of Long An Province is pruning branches, creating canopy for trees and applying organic fertilisers to stimulate root growth across his lemon orchard.
A local farmer applies organic fertiliser to help durian trees recover their roots after drought and salinity in the Mekong Delta province of Bến Tre in June. —VNA/VNS Photo Phúc Hậu

MEKONG DELTA — The rainy season is beginning, marking the time when coastal farmers in the Mekong Delta focus on recovering from drought and salinity intrusion to resume production, hoping to reach optimal growth of crops for the next harvest.

Nguyễn Văn Tâm, of Phong Nẫm Commune, Giồng Trôm District, Bến Tre province, said that coconut trees demonstrate the highest resilience to salinity in the locality.

However, due to prolonged drought combined with increased salinity levels, his one-hectare coconut grove is still not thriving. During dry periods when freshwater for irrigation was lacking, coconut trees absorb salty water resulting in smaller coconuts with compromised quality.

Therefore, he was currently concentrating on watering, adding organic fertilisers and pest prevention to restore the coconut trees' nutrients for fruit development.

He said it takes around three or four months after the saline times, even with rigorous measures, for the coconut grove to regain its previous quality and productivity.

Trần Văn Phước, from Thạnh Hòa Commune, Bến Lức District, Long An Province, is also focusing on measures such as pruning branches, creating the canopy for trees, flushing salt from water channels, applying lime and using organic fertilisers to stimulate root growth across his 1.5-ha lemon orchard.

Thanks to proactive care, the orchard had sprouted new shoots and regained its vibrant greenery after nearly a month of nurturing. Heavily affected trees were being replaced with new plantings, he said.

Phước said that the cost of rehabilitating orchards had increased compared to previous years, averaging over VNĐ50 million (US$1,983) per ha, an increase of VNĐ10-15 million ($395-593) per ha.

He also said that proactive care for the orchard ensured a fruitful harvest, leading to improved income in the current challenging conditions.

Nguyễn Ngọc Tấn Đạt, of Phước Tuy Commune, Cần Đước District, Long An Province, said that to adapt to salinity, his family converted nearly one ha of low-yield rice fields into growing vegetables.

His family could grow three or four crops of vegetables like gourd, zucchini, beans and chilli annually, yielding an average profit of VNĐ20-30 million ($793-1,189) per crop, which was significantly higher than rice cultivation.

Long-term adaptation

Huỳnh Quang Đức, deputy director of Bến Tre Province’s Agriculture and Rural Development Department, said the province currently had over 79,000 ha of coconut trees and more than 24,000 ha of fruit trees.

Following the saline period, the agricultural sector was focusing on helping farmers to implement recovery measures for coconut and fruit orchards such as durian, green-skin pomelo, cocoa and lemon.

Localities in the province were implementing recovery measures for each production area, combined with market-oriented solutions for products, thereby ensuring sustainable production values.

According to the agricultural department, to effectively develop key raw material areas, localities have actively carried out measures to cope with salinity intrusion, store freshwater and manage water to supply adequate water for production.

Farmers are also proactively digging ponds for water storage and applying water-saving techniques to cool the trees.

Additionally, some fruit-growing areas have switched crops to avoid saltwater intrusion, resulting in practical benefits.

For instance, in some rambutan-growing areas in Chợ Lách and Châu Thành districts, farmers use pre-treatment techniques for early fruits before saltwater intrudes, fetching high prices while protecting their orchards.

When rain falls, farmers take recovery measures to accelerate tree growth for a fruitful autumn season.

Local farmers clear obstacles under a local canal to store fresh water in the Mekong Delta province of Tiền Giang.—VNA/VNS Photo Hữu Chí

Nguyễn Anh Quốc, head of the Agriculture Office of Châu Thành District said that to minimise the impact of saltwater intrusion on production activities, local agencies advised farmers to allocate 10-20 per cent of their land to dig ponds to treat and store freshwater.

Additionally, they applied efficient irrigation, used biological methods to spray leaves for healthy, productive and quality crops, ensuring seasonal production.

Furthermore, farms have been told to suspend planting in unfavourable conditions for flowering and fruiting, focusing on post-salinity reversal to ensure a year-round supply of raw materials for businesses.

He added that the measures to cope with salinity in the province had been effective and local farmers had gained experience in coping with drought and salinity.

However, climate change effects were increasingly severe and unpredictable.

“Thus, besides measures from local authorities, everyone needs to raise awareness, cultivate adaptive thinking and adapt to the impacts of drought and salinity from now on,” he said.

In addition to promoting water-saving and efficient use, the sector was also intensifying awareness campaigns and enhancing guidance on using water resources efficiently, preventing water pollution.

Moreover, the sector actively coordinated with localities to encourage farmers to change farming practices, promote green agricultural models and adapt to climate change.

Võ Kim Thuần, head of Long An Province’s Rural Development and Irrigation Management Division said that drought and saltwater intrusion in recent years had had a severe impact on the lives and agricultural production of local residents.

During the recent saltwater intrusion, thanks to timely seasonal scheduling, rice production was not affected.

However, over 4,600 ha of lemon and other fruit trees saw reduced yields due to drought, water shortages and saltwater intrusion.

According to the provincial Agriculture and Rural Development Department, nearly 8,300 ha of agricultural land in the province were converted from rice cultivation to annual and fruit tree cultivation last year with 7,600 ha converted to annual crops and 656 ha to perennial tree cultivation.

Many crop conversion models had yielded quite positive results, allowing farmers to achieve higher profits than before.

For example, growing watermelons yielded profits ranging from VNĐ70-150 million ($2,775-5,948) per ha each crop, growing fatty potatoes yielded profits ranging from VNĐ40-60 million ($1,580-2,370) per ha, growing lemon trees yielded profits ranging from VNĐ60-100 million ($2,370-3,960) per ha and growing jackfruit trees yielded profits ranging from VNĐ100-150 million ($3,960-5,948) per ha.

Nguyễn Thanh Truyền, director of the department said that the department was encouraging and guiding farmers to participate in value chain production, applying advanced, water-saving irrigation methods and adjusting water supply when resources were scarce, ensuring efficient production.

Especially in terms of rice production, the province was focusing on researching, developing and transferring new high-quality crop varieties adaptable to farming conditions (salt-resistant, drought-resistant and alkaline-resistant), expanding and replicating modern, high-efficiency farming models such as Vietnamese Good Agricultural Practices (VietGAP) and integrated pest management (IPM).

Farmers were advised to reduce seedings to between 80-100 kg per ha, use short-day rice varieties and schedule planting times to ensure adequate irrigation.

In addition to water resources for production, the province was also trying out solutions to solve the problem of clean water shortage, in particular special projects for water resources in severely disadvantaged areas in lower districts such as the communes of Cần Giuộc and Cần Đước.

Completed projects have largely met the urgent needs of residents, contributing to ensuring that 99.88 per cent of rural residents in the province use sanitary water and 75.2 per cent use clean water by the end of 2024. — VNS