Apricots offer farmers in southern Tajikistan a profitable opportunity — particularly when dried for export to foreign markets.
In a region where 10 percent of the population lives on less than $1.25 per day, an international team led by U.S. scientists is digging into a new research project to help, advancing the science behind growing, drying, and selling these golden fruits.
Long history, new opportunities for apricot farmers in Tajikistan
Apricots have a long history in Tajikistan, as part of a region that is rich in apricot biodiversity (and potentially where the fruit originated). While apricots are grown widely across the country, farmers in northern Tajikistan in particular have well established commercial production and drying operations. More than 80 percent of Tajikistan’s dried apricots are exported to Russia, the world’s largest importer of dried fruit.
Kasemsap an associate professor at Kasetsart University in Thailand and also the director of the Horticulture Innovation Lab Regional Center at KU. The center brings together key regional players to circulate technical assistance and innovative technologies in support of smallholder farmers and small business in Thailand, Cambodia, Bangladesh and Nepal.
Pest-exclusion nets are one of the technologies for horticulture development promoted by the Horticulture Innovation Lab. The nets can be easy to use and can also serve as floating row covers to control temperature, light, relative humidity and soil moisture for plant production. Some of the pest-exclusion nets used by Horticulture Innovation Lab researchers are made and marketed locally by mosquito net manufacturers.
But why should you consider using nets for pest management? Here are 7 considerations in adopting nets for agricultural use, inspired by Sun Tzu’s The Art of War:
The greatest victory is that which requires no battle: The nets create a barrier that protects vegetables against pests and associated diseases, and thus provide an inexpensive and safe method of managing insect pests while reducing risks associated with pesticides to both farmers and consumers. The pest-exclusion nets provide an excellent example of victory (against certain insects) which requires no battle (insecticide). Continue reading Should I use pest-exclusion nets? 7 tips from Sun Tzu’s Art of War
What do relationships have to do with innovation and food safety? Our project is built on the idea that when we focus our work around the shared interests of a community, it can bring people together in participatory ways that result in innovation and sustainable change.
Elizabeth Mitcham, director of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Horticulture and a UC Cooperative Extension specialist in postharvest biology for the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, represented the DryCard during the competition.
How do you see dryness? Solar drying is a simple way for smallholder farmers to preserve their harvest, but knowing when food is dry enough to store is complex. UC Davis researchers invented a low-cost, easy-to-use tool that farmers can use to measure food dryness, called the DryCardTM.
In developing countries, mold growth on dried foods is a pervasive problem, which can mean postharvest losses for farmers and unsafe foods for consumers. When mold grows it reduces the market value of dried foods, meaning less income for farmers. But moldy foods can also contain toxins that suppress the immune system, increase disease rates, and cause lifelong stunting in children.
Trip to market inspires a solution
Improving the postharvest drying process for smallholder farmers is something UC Davis scientists Michael Reid and James Thompson think about often. As UC Cooperative Extension specialists, Reid and Thompson have a history of working together in California and around the world on postharvest technologies, including a design for a more efficient solar dryer.
Last summer Reid led a Horticulture Innovation Lab workshop in Tanzania to provide training in postharvest handling of fruit and vegetable crops. The class visited the local market and tested the moisture content of some of the dried foods for sale. They found huge variation between the moisture contents of dried foods — over half were insufficiently dried and susceptible to mold.