This interview of Dr Fen Beed the 200th Member of the SCPI-Hortcrops Dgroup community is part of the follow-up discussion on Sustainable Crop Production Intensification of Horticulture production based systems.
Could you tell us briefly about yourself, and why you are interested in the ongoing discussions on sustainable intensification of horticulture.
I am Fen Beed the current Regional Director for East and Southeast Asia/Oceania for the World Vegetable Center, based in Bangkok, Thailand…Previously for 14 years to be precise l was with The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), as a Senior Plant Pathologist. Before that l was in the UK for 6 years as a Researcher at the University of Nottingham and ADAS. Obtained a Ph.D. in Plant Pathology from the University College of London (UCL) in 1993 and prior to that, l was a researcher at the University of Strathclyde funded by Ciba Geigy.
I am interested in improving income generation and nutrition in a sustainable manner to satisfy markets and consumers, to protect the environment and buffer risks from changes in climate, abiotic conditions, pests and disease and in market preferences
Basing on your knowledge and experience, can you share any examples of ecosystem-based approaches and technologies (traditional and/ innovative ones) to enhance both crop productivity and agroecological systems under horticulture crop based systems.
Well, Crop and variety diversification (including traditional vegetables), crop rotation, cover crops and mulching to conserve water, soil and nutrients, soil preservation and enrichment to promote soil biodiversity and function, biological control and chemical pest lure. Here are some specific examples of ecosystems based approaches for enhancing hortcrop productivity:
- Rice based fishery systems combined with vegetable production in Cambodia, Agroforestry and vegetable based systems in SE Asia,
- Cereal grain legume systems in Africa, and
- The banana based systems in Africa.
According to you, what are the key best practices and lessons you have learned or experienced in sustainable intensification of horticulture crop based systems.
- Deployment of adapted varieties, (to environment and markets),
- Quality seedling systems including grafting (to overcome soil borne disease / salt / drought / floods)
- Viable agronomic practices including water and nutrient management.
- Precise diagnostics for abiotic and biotic stresses as first step towards deployment of appropriate interventions,
- Participatory communication networks to facilitate farmer support (inputs, advice and policies) to ensure profit, linkages between National Agriculture Research and Extension Systems (NARES) / National Plant Protection Organizations (NPPOS) / private sector, consumer awareness of the benefit of safe and sustainable agricultural products to create market demand and to protect environment from unnecessary chemical inputs (fertilisers and pesticides).
From your understanding and experiences, what are some of the key challenges farmers encounter in practicing sustainable horticulture production intensification?
- Knowledge of and access to appropriate agronomic practices and high quality inputs (varieties, seeds, biological based pest and disease control products, protected cultivation and irrigation systems)
- Pest and disease recognition and control options,
- Abiotic stress recognition and control options,
- Harvesting and storage methods, post-harvest technologies for perishables and processed products, robust and stable market linkages.
Do you think Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have a role to play in the sustainable intensification of horticulture?
Absolutely, Phone based (SMS and Apps) participatory communication offers an opportunity for real time information exchange to strengthen linkages between producers and markets, marketing and distribution networks, awareness campaigns to increase market demand for safe, sustainable and nutritious products and for tractability schemes.
Secondly, Youth are attracted to become engaged in agriculture through development and deployment of such ICT systems rather than field activities.
Lastly, what are the measures, which countries, regions and the international community at large can put in place to promote the use of ecosystem-based approaches in the sustainable intensification of horticulture crops?
Smallholder farmers tend to be risk adverse and need to benefit from enabling policy environment to embrace high-quality inputs and practices that safeguard long-term productivity of the land. Value chains need to be incentivized through market demand to produce safe and sustainable food to ensure nutrition security and ecosystem resilience. Efficiencies of scale required through aggregation of producers to facilitate the adoption of improved technologies, practices and linkages between value chain actors.
Looking forward to the discussions and exchanges on this and other related subjects…