Field crops refer to three main group of crops: cereals, oilcrops and grain legumes. Belonging to the family Poaceae, cereals comprise of our main food crops like rice (Oryza sativa), maize (Zea mays), wheat (Triticum aestivum), barley (Hordeum vulgare), buckwheat (Fagopyrum spp), oat (Avena sativa) and millets. There are several types of millets: Finger millet (Eleusine coracana), foxtail millet (Setaria italica), Common/Proso millet (Panicum meliaceum), Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) and Pearl millet (Pennisetum typhoides). Among oilcrops or oilseeds, the most important are rapeseed mustard (Brassica campestris and B. juncea) in Bhutan. Under the Legume family, Fabaceae, there are a number of grain legumes or pulses, the most important ones are: kidney or rajma beans (Phaseolus vulgaris ), urd and mung bean (Vigna mungo and V. radiata), soybean (Glycine max), pea (Pisum sativum), groundnut or peanut (Arachis hypogea) and Pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan).
Research and development of all the field crops is of paramount importance for our food security. The main objective and focus of field crops research is to increase the productivity of crops, thereby adding to the total food production in the country. More food production and availability will lead to a higher level of food self-sufficiency in the country. According to the analysis done in 2015 by the Department of Agriculture (Estimating National Dietary Energy Consumption Status), the self-sufficiency ratio of cereals, oilseeds and pulses stand at (%): rice 45, maize 87, wheat 48, buckwheat 99, millets 92, oilseeds 11 and pulses 38. Hence, accelerated research and development in field crops is indispensable.
Simple, adaptive and immediate problem-solving research methods are essentially employed to bring about quick results. Two main research approaches are crop variety development and crop production management. In crop variety development, the major activities include introduction and evaluation of exotic genetic materials or germplasm (both on-station and on-farm), collection and characterization of local germplasm for identification of useful traits and their improvement, improvement of local cultivars through appropriate selection methods, and finally cross breeding and evaluation of cross-bred progenies as a longer term breeding strategy. In production management, main activities are: plant nutrient management (crop responses to inorganic and organic sources, IPNS or integrated plant nutrient system), weed management (efficacy of different methods, awareness and education), pest management (rice blast management, IPM or integrated pest management), agronomy and cropping systems (sowing times, seed rates, water management practices, cropping patterns) and socio-economic studies (costs of production and adoption studies).
The RNR RDC Bajo is the national coordinating centre for field crops research and development. The coordination functions include making crop germplasm available for evaluation through liaison with international (CG centres, IARCs) and regional research centres, convening of coordination meetings, coordination of capacity development, synthesis of outputs/reports and technical backstopping. The Field Crops sector has so far released 21 crop varieties (11 rice varieties, 6 wheat and 4 oilseeds) along with associated production technologies for these varieties.