The VIII Steering Committee Meeting of the Central Asia and the Caucasus Regional Network for Vegetable Systems Research and Development (CACVEG) was held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, 10-12 November 2015. It was attended by the national coordinators on vegetable research and development from seven countries of the CAC Region - experts from the agricultural research institutes of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, as well as representatives from AVRDC - the World Vegetable Center. The meeting was held on the occasion of the 10th Anniversary of collaboration between AVRDC, the national research institutes and their international partners in the framework of CACVEG. The meeting aimed at assessing the ongoing cooperation, discussing the state of vegetable production and making recommendations for further joint research and development of vegetable production systems in CAC countries.
Playing a key role in maintaining health of the growing population and diversity of their diets, vegetable production is very important in Central Asia and the Caucasus. The total sowing area is more than 850'000 ha and annual vegetable production reaches 20.5 million tons. About 40 vegetable species grow locally, where key crops are tomato, watermelon, onion, carrot, cabbage, cucumber (60%). Uzbekistan is the leading country in the region in terms of crop areas and gross production of vegetables, as well as existing research and scientific capacity.
However, the average yield of vegetables is still below their potential. There are challenges to improve vegetable production in the Region by introducing new varieties and advanced technologies. To address this goal, AVRDC initiated a Regional varietal trial project ten years ago. During this period, a total of 1750 accessions/lines of 26 species were evaluated in the frame of the CAC Network, releasing a total of 52 new varieties of 15 vegetable crops included in the State Registers. In particular, 10 new varieties of 8 species were released in 2015, including hot pepper (3), eggplant (1), vegetable pea (1), vegetable marrow (1), custard squash (1), lettuce (1), basil (1) and celery (1). All new released varieties of vegetable crops offer new, unique marketable traits in the participating countries.
Since 2013, AVRDC has participated in the implementation of integrated research on sustainable land management in the vulnerable dryland systems of Central Asia. The activities undertaken with support of the CGIAR Research Program “Dryland Systems” aimed at germplasm evaluation in order to identify and introduce stress-tolerant, high-yielding and improved quality varieties of cereals, potato, vegetable, horticultural and fodder crops in pure and mixed plantations through on-farm adaptive trials. For example, four new mungbean varieties developed on the basis of AVRDC germplasm and released in Uzbekistan were welcomed by farmers in Fergana Valley and Aral Sea Sites for production in the cereals-mungbean system in dryland conditions.
A new project "Beans with Benefits", funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ-GIZ) and launched in spring 2015, aims at integrating improved mungbean as a catch crop into the dryland systems of South and Central Asia for increased smallholder farmer income and more sustainable production systems. Another project titled “Tajikistan Nutrition-Sensitive Vegetable Production Technologies” funded by USAID supports improvement of greenhouse seedlings production and associated technologies, and will ultimately lead to improvement of farmers’ knowledge and skills to produce better quality vegetables. For the first time in the CAC Region, AVRDC is conducting research on tomato and cucumber grafting in order to introduce a vegetable production technology for adaptation of crops to stress conditions (heat, drought, salinity) that will result a higher yield and fruits quality. At the same time, AVRDC-CAC office promotional and knowledge sharing activities are flourishing within these new initiatives. They include training seminars for youth and farmers and field days recently organized in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
The VIII Steering Committee Meeting of the Central Asia and the Caucasus Regional Network for Vegetable Systems Research and Development (CACVEG) enabled national partners to share experience and information for further development of research and breeding of vegetables. The national coordinators also discussed constrains and ways for further improvement, and signed an updated agreement on continuation of the work program for CACVEG.