Monday, May 27 2019

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Rice farmers switch to corn as fresh water supply shrinks

Update: May, 14/2019 - 08:30

 

Farmers in Tiền Giang Province in recent years have rotated other crops with rice in their rice fields, earning higher incomes. – VNA/VNS Photo Minh Trí

TIỀN GIANG — Facing water shortages, farmers in the Cửu Long (Mekong) Delta province of Tiền Giang have grown corn on nearly 2,000ha of rice fields for the 2018-19 winter-spring crop.

Farmers have harvested 2.6 tonnes of corn per ha and earned a profit of more than VNĐ56 million (US$2,400) per ha for the winter-spring crop, 3.1 times higher than the profit from rice, according to the province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Most of the rice fields that switched to corn are located in drought-prone and saltwater-affected areas, including the coastal area of Gò Công and islets.

Hai Cầu, who rotated rice and corn on his 2,500 sq.m rice field in Gò Công Town, said he had previously planted three rice crops a year and faced disease outbreaks, high production costs and declining profits.

Under the encouragement of local authorities, Cầu began rotating growing rice and corn and made high profits from corn.

In the 2018-19 winter-spring crop, he earned a profit of nearly VNĐ15 million ($646) from corn, he said.

He plans to completely switch to corn on his rice field.

The maturing period of corn is shorter than rice, so farmers can grow up to four corn crops a year. In addition, corn is resistant to drought and can be grown in areas that lack water.

In recent years, the department has encouraged rice farmers in areas that face water shortages to switch to drought-resistant crops, especially corn.

To encourage the switch, the department has organised agriculture extension activities, providing farming techniques and establishing effective corn-farming models for farmers to visit.

The province’s Agriculture Extension Centre has set up rice-corn model field in Gò Công Town to teach farmers intensive corn farming techniques that result in high yields.

The switch to corn has occurred mostly in the coastal area of Gò Công, which includes Gò Công Town, Gò Công Đông and Gò Công Tây districts and a part of Chợ Gạo District.

In the province, farmers grow two corn crops and one rice crop a year, or one corn crop and two rice crops a year.

Farmers grow many corn varieties, including waxy corn and American corn. The province’s corn is used for eating and for making animal feed.

Chợ Gạo, Gò Công Tây and Châu Thành districts have the largest area of corn in the province.

Besides harvesting corns, farmers earn additional income from using corn by-products like trunks and leaves to feed oxen, cows, goats and other grass-eating animals. — VNS

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