Approximately 120 people attended the “Southeast Asia Symposium on Quality Management in Postharvest Systems” held in August in Cambodia, sponsored in part by the Horticulture Innovation Lab. The conference was held under the auspices of the International Society for Horticultural Science with conference leadership by Borarin Buntong of the Royal University of Agriculture.
The first morning was attended by H.E. Ty Sokhun, Secretary of State and the representative of Cambodia’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and Sandra Stajka, USAID/Cambodia’s Director of Food Security and Environment Office, among other dignitaries.
This ISHS event will highlight innovations related to postharvest aspects of the horticultural value chain, including food safety, reducing postharvest losses, processing, fresh-cut, packaging, microbiology, supply chain management, and seed quality.
Agricultural scholars from universities, government ministries, and non-governmental organizations will attend, from countries throughout Southeast Asia and the rest of the world. University students are also encouraged to participate.
Most commonly used with field crops, conservation agriculture combines three practices that help farmers invest in soil health, specifically:
minimal soil disturbance (“no till”),
continuous mulch cover, and
rotating diverse crops.
These practices can also reduce labor and reduce water evaporation from the soil.
Manuel Reyes, professor at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, has helped farmers in many countries improve their soil and use water efficiently. In doing so, he has also partnered with three Feed the Future Innovation Labs, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Beginning in 2010, Reyes started working with farmers in Cambodia on conservation agriculture for field crops, with an international team supported by the SANREM Innovation Lab. Two year later, the team worked with 56 households over 149 hectares to use conservation agriculture principles.
After testing conservation agriculture practices with vegetable crops in the United States, Reyes expanded his conservation agriculture work in Cambodia to focus on vegetable farmers. Now with additional funding from the Horticulture Innovation Lab, he added drip irrigation to conservation agriculture practices for vegetable farmers. This research sought to find whether combining these practices could reduce labor needs, increase yield, increase income and ultimately receive support from vegetable farmers.
Editor’s note: As our management team members visit Horticulture Innovation Lab partners and research sites in developing countries, we are sharing with you glimpses into their visits, with travel updates and photos.
As director of the Horticulture Innovation Lab, I traveled to Cambodia with Manuel Reyes of North Carolina A&T State University to launch a spin-off project related to his earlier research in Cambodia on conservation agriculture and drip irrigation for women vegetable farmers. We visited with several women vegetable farmer groups who have been successfully practicing conservation agriculture in Siem Reap.
Manny Reyes, right, and two of his team members in Cambodia, Rechaney (left) and Rain (center), discuss progress in the conservation agriculture plots during a meeting with a group of women farmers.