Agricultural practice in Phobjikha unsustainable
Unsustainable agricultural practice presents the greatest immeadiate threat to agriculture products of the people living in Phobjikha.
At the time of potato plantation, the local people make vertical rows (cross contour line) to facilitate water drainage because potato is grown during rainy season.
However, this practice has led to serious soil erosion in the farming area and loss of soil nutrients in the process.
Therefore, some households are inclined to practice shifting cultivation, while others, having run out of options, use huge quantities of chemical fertilizers to compensate the loss of nutrients.
The Phobjikha valley is home to about 500 households and approximately 5,000 people who mostly depend on potato, turnip and buck wheat farming.
Speaking to BT, the Gup of Phobji Gewog, Jamtsho, said, “People are expecting good products and chemical fertilizers have been used for the agricultural production to increase the potato yields and quality for several decades.”
Therefore, he said there has been an increasing concern over the environmental impact of agricultural fertilizers. “Chemical fertilizers soften the soil and maks it prone to erosion,” he said, adding that the chemicals washed thus away harms the environment.
A survey conducted by Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) in 2003 indicated that the households in Phobjikha use more than 160 tons of different kinds of chemical fertilizers per year for potato cultivation. No such survey has been conducted after that.
The people of the valley rear cows but they hardly use manure for their fields.
The gewog extension supervisor, Pema Geyleg, said the organic fertilizers can be prepared locally but chemical fertilizers lead to high yields and fetch a higher market price.
“The use of organic fertilizers help maintain the soil structure and increases its nutrientholding capacity,” he said. He added that farmers who practice organic farming for many years will require far less fertilizers because the soil would have become already rich in essential nutrients.
Passing Tobgay, a local farmer, said chemical fertilizers protect the crops from insects as well as increase the yield.
The annual report of RSPN 2015 observed that, with consistent depletion of forest in the mountains, unsustainable agriculture practice on the hillside is leading to serious soil erosion in some parts of the valley.
The Black-necked crane habitat in the valley is regularly maintained by grazing cattle, but soil siltation along the streams from the hillside is likely to reduce the area available for crane roosting.