New generation corn turns around countryside poverty

Vietnamese farmers are getting rich by applying science and technology to their plantations. 

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Application of technology to agriculture

About 15-20 years ago, there were no farmers or agencies in the agricultural industry that dared to dream of plants immune to pests, insects, and weed. Not many people could think that Son La or Lao Cai would become the hubs of corn in northern Vietnam, because these places are full of hills and mountains and the weather is severe.

At present, thanks to the application of science and technology to agriculture, many plants can adapt to the soil conditions and severe weather, which provided local people with more crops each year and better chances to enhance their incomes.

When herbicide-resistant (HR) and insect-resistant (IR) corn appeared in Vietnam, the plant was confronted with several barriers and obstacles due to limited knowledge about cultivating it. However, the new generation corn plants gradually demonstrated their advantages. Lands for growing HR and IR corn are constantly being expanded, and numerous localities proposed the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to further extend corn acreage so that they can improve corn productivity.

A representative of Dekalb Vietnam Company Limited, one of the companies pioneering the HR and IR corn in Vietnam, said that the growth of these plants, coded DK6919S, DK6818S, and DK9955S, helps to effectively prevent three harmful insect species, called ostrinia nubilalis, heliothis armigera hubner, and spodoptera litura. Moreover, with the advantage of HR plants, farmers can spray glyphosate-based herbicides to eliminate weed without damaging the corn plants.

According to a Dekalb survey, the acreage of HR and IR corn increased by about 15 per cent as a proportion of the total corn acreage by March 2017 compared to the same period of 2016. Also, the productivity increased by 20 per cent and economic efficiency by 20-30 per cent compared to other kinds of hybrid corn.

Lance Wang, vice president for the ASEAN, Pakistan, and Partnerships of Dekalb’s parent company Monsanto, said, “We know that corn farmers in Vietnam are confronted with harsh competition and challenges, including the low price of corn. We believe that our modern technology will help farmers raise their productivity and reduce expenses on pesticides, which in turn will increase profit for farmers. We have adjusted the seed prices for new corn seeds, especially the HR and IR ones, so that farmers will find it easier to approach new technology to overcome difficulties. I believe that by accessing new technology at a reasonable price, farmers will have successful harvest seasons and their income will be enhanced gradually.”

As there has been many successful farmers thanks to HR and IR corns in 2016, many clubs and cooperatives of hybrid corn have been established all over the country, so that farmers can support each other to apply modern technology to agriculture.

New generation corn turns around countryside poverty
New generation HR and IR corn plants consistently produce higher yields, at lower production costs

Successful farmers

In Xuan Loc district (Dong Nai province), there are hundreds of farms and cooperatives that attract millions of participants. These farms and cooperatives created many economic boosts to help farmers get rid of poverty and even get rich. Also, in these clubs, the productivity of hybrid corn is 11-12 tonnes per hectare. Many millionaires arose thanks to this plant. Now, Xuan Loc is becoming the capitol of corn in Southeast Vietnam, with a corn acreage of about 3,000 hectares.

Ly Phat Sinh, a farmer in Tay Minh hamlet, Lang Minh village, Xuan Loc district, is an example of a farmer who succeeded and got rich thanks to HR and IR corns. He said that in 2005, farmers in the village could plant 1-2 rice crops each year and their production was mainly based on natural sources of water, making them very poor. They repeated a circle of planting rice and corn, but they often lacked water, so their corns were small and yields were low, as well as their profit, although corn yields were higher than rice.

During the harder years with more pests and water shortages, farmers stopped growing corn and turned back to rice and then returned to corn at milder times. This was a vicious circle of starvation and poverty. Afterwards, thanks to the province and district’s investment in canal systems and encouraging planting two corn and one rice crops each year, profit on each hectare has increased significantly compared to last years.

Especially, Sinh said that after learning corn growing techniques in the Philippines, his yield of DK6919 has increased to 12 tonnes per hectare. In addition, instead of spraying pesticides 3-4 times a year, farmers now have to spray pesticides only once, saving a significant amount on expenses for pesticide and labour cost.

“Our family plants seven hectares of corn with a yield of 13 tonnes per hectare, so each year we have about 80 tonnes of corn. At the price of VND5,000 ($0.22) per kilogramme, we will have about VND400 million ($17,600) in total from corn sales. Each year, we have two corn and one rice crops, so our annual income may be over VND1 billion ($44,000),” Sinh said.

Following the example of Lang Minh village’s success thanks to HR and IR corns, the model of two corn and one rice crops each year has been spread to surrounding regions, even to villages with an abundant supply of water, because the new corn plants has brought about high economic efficiency and profit for farmers.

Currently, Dong Nai has the largest acreage of corn in Southeast Vietnam with over 60,000 hectares. Corn is the main crop for farmers in Dong Nai, but recently, corn farmers have been confronted with difficulties due to droughts and declining prices. Still, farmers in Cam My and Xuan Loc district have a successful season thanks to DK6919S, DK6818S, and DK9955S, the HR and IR corn products of  Dekalb Vietnam.

Not only Dong Nai, but other provinces, such as An Giang and Kien Giang also grow genetically modified corn to raise their yields, extend cultivated land, and abolish poverty.

Tran Kim Ha, technical staff in the agricultural extension station in Tan Chau village, An Giang province, said that local farmers mainly grow corn now, whereas previously they used to extensively spray pesticides.

“Now farmers do not have to worry about insects when growing DK6919S. This kind of corn is resistant to glyphosate, making it more convenient for farmers, as they only need to spray once, not every day. Moreover, this is an IR corn, so farmers do not have to spray pesticides, which helps reduce costs for pesticides and labour, reducing the cost of growing corn and enhancing farmers’ profit,” Ha said.

By Trang Vu