Laos farmers challenged by extreme weather

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The nation’s farmers are facing ongoing challenges with their crop production as temperatures continue to soar to extreme levels.

The Meteorology and Hydrology Department of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment reported recently that maximum temperatures in Laos reached 40ºC and the hot weather is expected to continue until the end of this month.

According to an agricultural expert, the high temperatures might lead to soil moisture deficiencies, resulting in reduced crop yields. In turn, this could affect the government’s agriculture production targets and the nation’s food security.

However, in response to the extreme weather conditions, the authorities are looking to produce crop seeds over the longer-term that can adapt to climate change. Director of the Horticulture Research Centre at the National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute, Dr Bounneuang Douangboupha, said they were continuing to use new techniques to produce better quality seeds to help vegetable growers cope with weather extremes.

“The centre is endeavouring to support vegetable growers to boost their yields in both the wet and dry seasons and during extremely high temperatures,” he said.

Hot weather from April to June and the rainy season from July to October has often led to reduced vegetable yields.

The centre has conducted studies on nine climate-resilient vegetable seed varieties and grown them on a six-hectare plot ahead of distribution to farmers.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry reported at its recent strategy meeting that the Department of Agriculture is focusing its efforts on helping farmers across the country adapt to weather extremes. 

The Rice Research Centre, for example, is putting a lot of time and energy into improving the efficiency and output of various rice varieties. 

Testing programmes are being run on farmers’ properties in the hopes that new rice types can be developed that will grow in warmer, more variable conditions.

The National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute has also set up a rice breeding programme aimed at developing new climate-resilient rice varieties. This programme breeds rice varieties that have submergence and drought tolerance. 

The programme is also exploring grains that have different aerobic qualities, direct seeding processes and species that are shatter resistant when harvested using large mechanical equipment.

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