GM corn helps northern farmers raise yield

Farmers from Moc Chau district in the northern mountainous province of Son La reported higher yield and saving with the first harvest of genetically modified (GM) corn at the recent "Application and Development of GM Corn" forum organised by the Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Science.

The forum, held on August 29 and 30 with the participation of 200 representatives from government agencies, science institutes and the media, included a visit to the corn fields in Nong Truong town and Chieng Son town, where they talked with local farmers about the latter’s experience growing Syngenta and Monsanto breeds for the first time.

According to farmer Nguyen Thach Loi from Nong Truong, who grew Syngenta’s GM corn, the corn, besides growing stronger and faster than conventional ones despite the difficult weather, helped him save money.

“For weed management, we only needed VND1.2 million ($56) per hectare with the NK66Bt/GT variety. Last year we spent VND2.4 million ($112),” he said.

Farmer Phan Van Chuyen from Tan Lap, who grew the DK 6919S breed supplied by Dekalb Vietnam, also said the breed helped him save money by reducing labour cost. Moreover, the yield rose from 10.1 tons to 12.5 tonnes of fresh corn per hectare.

“The high quality of this batch has also helped us sell at a better price. This is every farmer’s wish and I look forward to more varieties like DK 6919S to help us boost the yield of the crop,” he added.

“Through trial production, GM corn varieties have shown markedly higher weed management and pest resistant ability, resulting in a stronger crop and significant cost savings for farmers,” Ma Quang Trung, director of the Department of Crop Production under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), said.

According to Trung, Vietnam has sufficient basis from legal framework, scientific data and practical results to expand GM corn varieties application at a large scale.

The government is planning to restructure the agriculture crop structure and replace rice acreage with other alternative crops. The initial scheme in the southern region has seen positive benefits, therefore the MARD has proposed the government deploy the project nationwide with a target to transfer 700,000 hectares of paddy fields into other crops.

Vietnam’s corn yield ranks the 59th position out of 66 worldwide while domestic corn prices are VND1,000 (4 US cent) per kilogramme higher than import prices. The country imports approximately 2.3 million tonnes of corn annually. The import pressure for corn in Vietnam is growing heavier to cater to increasing animal feed production.

By Khanh Tran