A farmer grows vegetables in a net house in Sóc Trăng Province’s Mỹ Xuyên District. — VNA/VNS Photo Hồng Nhung
SÓC TRĂNG — Farmers in the Cửu Long (Mekong) Delta province of Sóc Trăng have adopted many new farming models to adapt to climate change, which has helped them cope with the severe saltwater intrusion.
They include farming shrimp or saline resistant crops in the dry season in their rice fields.
In many areas, rice farmers grow only specialty rice or have switched completely to other crops for higher incomes or because they are adapted to saltwater unlike rice.
In Mỹ Xuyên District, farmers have adopted the shrimp - rice farming model on an area of 17,500ha, the largest in the province.
The model has been adopted in coastal areas for many years. It sees farmers growing rice in the rainy season and breeding shrimp in the dry season on the same fields. Both are clean since the farmers use little pesticide or chemical.
The model offers farmers an income of more than VNĐ40 million (US$1,730) per hectare per year, possibly lower than from other farming models but sustainable and with high-quality produce, according to the province Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Lương Minh Quyết, director of the department, said shrimp bred under the model have few diseases since the cultivation of rice helps reduce pathogens and the rice grows well since the soil is fertile because of shrimp waste.
The province has created many specialty and fragrant rice strains that are resistant to drought and saltwater like ST20, ST21, ST24, and ST25.
ST25 rice won the first prize in the 2019 World’s Best Rice Contest.
Specialty and fragrant varieties now account for 50 per cent of the province’s total rice growing area.
Farmers in the province also increasingly use advanced techniques to increase yields and reduce the use of water and labour.
The province has also provided financial support to farmers adopting advanced techniques.
Its project to develop fruit farming, for instance, subsidises the cost of automatic irrigation systems for orchards.
Nguyễn Văn Út, who has a 7,000sq.m longan orchard in Cù Lao Dung District’s An Thạnh Tây Commune, has installed one using the subsidy.
The system could also be used to spray fertilisers and pesticides, reducing the cost of labour, he said.
“I am happy the project has helped me resolve the irrigation issue.”
Nguyễn Thành Phước, head of the province’s Plant Protection and Cultivation Sub-department, said the current water shortage saltwater intrusion could impact fruit growing areas, and so farmers should keep saltwater out of their orchards and store freshwater when authorities say they could draw water from irrigation canals.
They should use automatic irrigation systems and cover the bed of irrigation ditches in orchards with plastic sheets, he said.
The sub-department would continue to inform farmers about what crops including fruits to grow to mitigate possible damage if drought and saltwater intrusion last for long, he said.
Before the recent winter – spring rice crop province authorities had told farmers to sow it earlier than normal or switch to other crops to avoid the impacts of drought and saltwater intrusion, enabling farmers in many localities to prevent losses.
Lê Thị Ánh of Long Phú District’s Tân Hưng Commune has stopped growing winter – spring rice on her 2,000sq.m field and switched to straw mushroom instead.
She has harvested more than 150kg of mushroom and earned VNĐ6 million ($260) so far and expects to harvest dozens of kilogrammes more, she said.
Nguyễn Hữu Tài, chairman of the Tân Hưng Commune People’s Committee, said to cope with the water shortage and saltwater intrusion, the commune has encouraged farmers to grow other crops in some rice growing areas, including straw mushroom.
The mushroom farming model is effective, he said, adding, “We will co-operate with relevant agencies to expand the model to adapt to climate change.”
With its coastline of 72km, Sóc Trăng is one of the delta provinces hardest hit by saltwater intrusion in the dry season.
The delta is this year facing severe saltwater intrusion, estimated to be as bad or worse than the record intrusion in 2015-16. — VNS