|Dr Evan Christen with Vietnamese farmer, Mr Tuyen|
|Crops struggle in sandy soils|
To try and address this, the farmers apply large amounts of cow manure and commercial fertiliser, which costs a lot, doesn’t necessarily lead to high yields, and contaminates the groundwater used for drinking. Farmers also irrigate from this groundwater, but they’re unsure of what techniques to use or how much to apply. This has led to overuse and also salinisation of the groundwater. These problems then threaten the whole agricultural system.
|Workshop group brought together to discuss sandy soil research|
The first step is to talk to the local agriculture researchers and the people whose job it is to manage the groundwater. We held a 1-day workshop at the Agricultural Science Institute for Southern Central Coastal Vietnam (ASISOV) in Quy Nhon to discuss the issues and plan research activities.
The next step is to go out and talk to the farmers. They see the world differently from researchers and government organisations, being at the sharp end of having to deal with all the problems of growing a crop – the weather, pests and disease, credit for fertilisers, labour shortages and the market ups and downs.
|Farmer Thai Thi Hanh|
From this meeting, our perception that the management of irrigation and fertiliser can be much improved is confirmed. We could potentially trial some options on part of her farm, to demonstrate how to irrigate efficiently, and how and when to fertilise.
|Farmer Mr Trung, |
eggplant and peanut grower
Previous ACIAR-funded research found that the groundwater nitrate level in this area is relatively high, and this is a concern for groundwater used for drinking. Clearly, any research here will need to focus on the most effective combination of watering and fertiliser to protect the groundwater from more contamination, whilst keeping the eggplant coming!
|For Mr Trung, hand watering is both time-consuming and inefficient. More effective methods are being explored.|
|Women onion farmers with their harvest|
The last visit of the trip was more positive. We went to an area where a development program has recently introduced sprinkler systems to 15 farmers.
One farmer we met (Mr Tuyen, a Cham minority person) had been curious about the program and learnt about sprinklers from the other farmers. He could see the benefits compared to his hand hosepipe watering. He invested $650 (half to 2/3 of his annual income) on a pump and sprinklers for his whole farm. He changed from growing about just half the farm of peanuts to now growing the whole farm with a mix of peanuts, onions, cabbage and fodder for his 2 cows and 4 calves.
|Mr Tuyen's calves.|
Mr Tuyen is also pictured with Dr Christen top.
These visits and extensive discussions with researchers in Vietnam and Australia are leading to the development of a new project due to start early next year “Integrated water use, soil and nutrient management for sustainable farming systems in south central coastal Vietnam and Australia”. The project will look at water and fertiliser management and improving the sandy soils. It will also involve studies of the amount of groundwater that can be safely used, and how to prevent the groundwater quality from degrading.
By Dr Evan Christen, ACIAR’s Research Program Manager for Land & Water Resources
ACIAR's Research strategy for Vietnam
ACIAR's Soil Management and Crop Nutrition program