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Bhutan releases its first winter wheat variety

In Bhutan, wheat is an important cereal for farmers at high altitudes, where its area of cultivation is considerable. However, in recent years, the winter wheat area has declined owing to numerous circumstances, including not having a better variety. This may be due to the fact that spring wheat has been the focus of most research and development efforts to date.

However, of late, the national wheat program has been paying equal attention to winter wheat research and development in collaboration with CIMMYT and ICARDA. But while ICARDA’s winter wheat nurseries are still being evaluated, CIMMYT-Nepal has helped to introduce cultivars that have recently been released in cooler regions elsewhere. One such genotype is Danphe (KIRITATI//2*PBW65/2*SERI.1B).

Danphe’s performance during its multi-location evaluation in the highlands of Bhutan (1200-2600 masl) was very promising. The new variety on average yielded 30% more than the local cultivar called Kaa, which means wheat in the local language. In addition, Danphe produces big grains, is short in height and lodging tolerant, which are farmers’ preferred traits. Up to now, farmers have had to manage with Kaa, which is very tall, small-grained and low yielding. Farmers who attended the field days unanimously preferred Danphe over the local cultivar.

In view of such an astonishing performance and of farmers’ preference for Danphe, the 18th Technology Release Committee of Bhutan’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forests authorized the release of this line under the name Bumthang Kaa Drukchu. Bumthang is the name of the target area (the district), Kaa means wheat and Drukchu means sixty (60).

Ganesh Chhettri, a committee member from the Department of Agriculture, remarked that such an accomplishment in such short time was not expected, as winter wheat was never adequately attended to. Further, he commented that wheat production in this ecosystem will surely increase now that farmers have a higher yielding variety.

CIMMYT is considering providing about 1500 kg of Danphe seed to Nepal to fulfill farmers’ needs for the ensuing season, and promote the new variety’s dissemination and adoption.