|Farmer Ngô Văn Tiên intercrops pepper, passion fruit, jackfruit and other plants in his 1ha garden in Gia Lai Province’s Đăk Đoa District. — VNA/VNS Photo Hồng Điệp|
GIA LAI — The Tây Nguyên (Central Highlands) province of Gia Lai has encouraged farmers to intercrop plants in pepper and coffee gardens to improve income and reduces risks of losses.
The current shortage of irrigation water in the dry season and disease outbreaks in industrial trees, especially pepper and coffee trees, have caused risks and affected the income of farmers in the province, according to the province’s Plant Cultivation and Protection Sub-department.
Pepper and coffee are the province’s two major industrial crops.
Hà Ngọc Uyển, head of the province’s Plant Cultivation and Protection Sub-department, said the sub-department recently inspected industrial tree gardens and found that such gardens that planted only one kind of tree were limited in efficiency.
The sub-department has encouraged more farmers to intercrop other plants in their gardens to reduce risks and improve the efficiency of farmland, he said.
After many pepper and coffee trees died because of disease outbreaks and old age in recent years, many farmers in the province began intercropping short-term and long-term crops in their gardens.
The intercropping has helped farmers increase income as they waited for harvest of the main crops of coffee and pepper. It also reduced risk of losses when coffee and pepper prices fell, according to farmers.
Ngô Văn Tiên, who has a 1ha mixed garden in Đăk Đoa District’s Nam Yang Commune, said he intercropped pepper, passion fruit, jackfruit, areca trees and soft bollygum early last year.
It takes about three years for pepper to be ready for harvest so he grew passion fruit to have income while waiting for the pepper harvest. He also grew jackfruit, areca trees and soft bollygum to provide shade for pepper plants.
Passion fruit plants began to have a harvest after eight months of planting, providing him an income of nearly VNĐ150 million (US$6,450) so far, he said.
The intercropping also saves irrigation water and fertiliser since it is used for multiple crops in the same area.
Nguyễn Văn Lập has intercropped coffee, pepper and durian in his 5ha garden in Mang Yang District’s Đak Djrăng Commune since 2006.
Last year, he earned an income of VNĐ3.5 billion ($151,000) from harvesting 34 tonnes of durians, eight tonnes of pepper and four tonnes of coffee.
The province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development chose his garden as a site for other farmers to visit and learn about intercropping.
Trịnh Quốc Việt, director of the province’s Agriculture Extension Centre, said the model of intercropping fruits in coffee and pepper gardens offers 3-4 times higher profit than the planting of only one crop.
The model also provides a wind shield for main crops such as coffee and prevents water evaporation in the soil, he said.
It helps develop coffee trees sustainably and adapt to climate change, he said.
Gia Lai, which is one of the largest coffee producers in the country, had around 94,000ha of coffee trees last year. VNS