Protected Agriculture for High Value Crops [Bhutan]

technologies_6846 - Bhutan

Completeness: 94%

1. General information

1.2 Contact details of resource persons and institutions involved in the assessment and documentation of the Technology

Key resource person(s)

land user:

Narayan Abi

Abimanyum Farm


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1.3 Conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT

The compiler and key resource person(s) accept the conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT:


1.4 Declaration on sustainability of the described Technology

Is the Technology described here problematic with regard to land degradation, so that it cannot be declared a sustainable land management technology?


1.5 Reference to Questionnaire(s) on SLM Approaches (documented using WOCAT)

2. Description of the SLM Technology

2.1 Short description of the Technology

Definition of the Technology:

Protected agriculture (controlled environment agriculture) is the use of technology to modify the growing environment for crops to extend the growing period and increase yields. It can include greenhouses, shade nets or polytunnels. This technology is moderately expensive therefore it is used only for the cultivation of high-value crops and raising seedlings in winter.

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology


Protected agriculture, also known as controlled environment agriculture, refers to the practice of growing crops within an enclosed structure that provides controlled environmental conditions. There are various structures that can be employed, such as greenhouses, shade nets, polytunnels and glasshouses. This documentation focuses on greenhouses. These are commonly used for cultivating high-value crops that yield a higher economic return per unit area compared to traditional field crops. Technical specification for a 20 m x 5 m greenhouse set consists of a galvanized tubular frame, two doors, UV stabilized 120 GSM cross-laminated clear plastic sheet, channels and a nylon belt for holding the plastic sheet. Construction activities include clearing, levelling the ground and ensuring drainage. Installation of water lines, electrical connections, heating systems and ventilation systems is required.
Greenhouses are typically designed with a framework made of materials like metal, wood, or PVC. The structure must be sturdy enough to support covering materials and withstand environmental loads such as wind and snow. Coverings are transparent or translucent materials that allow sunlight to enter the structure. Common options include glass, polycarbonate panels, or plastic film. The choice of covering material depends on factors such as light transmission, insulation properties, durability, and cost. Greenhouses require adequate ventilation to control temperature, humidity, and air circulation. Vents, louvres, or roll-up side walls can be used to regulate airflow and prevent heat buildup. Exhaust fans or natural ventilation methods help remove excess heat, humidity, and carbon dioxide from the structure. Efficient irrigation systems, such as drip irrigation, and micro-sprinklers, are used to deliver water directly to plants' root zones. Raised beds of 1.2 m width and 30 cm height and planting distance of 60 cm are applied for (for example) watermelon.
Greenhouses allow for the cultivation of plants throughout the year, regardless of the external weather. By maintaining a stable and favourable climate inside, growers can start plants earlier in the spring, extend the growing season into the fall, or even grow plants year-round in certain regions. It shields plants from adverse weather conditions such as frost, heavy rain, wind, or hail, which can damage or destroy crops. Greenhouses provide a physical barrier that safeguards plants from external threats, minimizing the risk of disease, pests, and other environmental stresses.
Greenhouses provide a range of benefits and impacts, including increased food production by extending the growing season and improving food security. They produce higher crop yields by providing optimal growing conditions and conserving water through efficient irrigation systems. Greenhouses also contributes to reduced pesticide use, energy efficiency, local and seasonal produce, employment opportunities, research and innovation, and serves as an attractive space for recreation and education. Overall, greenhouses offer sustainable and efficient solutions for agriculture while enhancing environmental stewardship and community well-being.
Protected agriculture through the use of greenhouses offers land users the ability to control environmental factors, leading to optimal conditions for plant growth and higher crop yields compared to open-field cultivation. It protects from adverse weather conditions, reducing crop losses due to frost, rain, or wind. Additionally, the controlled environment minimizes the risk of pests and diseases, resulting in fewer losses and reduced reliance on pesticides. Overall, greenhouses enhance productivity, profitability, and sustainability for land users. On the other hand, setting up a greenhouse requires a significant initial investment, including the construction or purchase of the structure, equipment, and environmental control systems. Operating a greenhouse involves ongoing costs for utilities, maintenance, and replacement of equipment, which can impact profitability. The cost can be reduced by establishing a low cost greenhouse with locally available materials such as bamboo.

2.3 Photos of the Technology

2.4 Videos of the Technology

Comments, short description:
This link provides poly house construction basics video prepared by ARDC Bajo officials and JICA experts of Integrated Horticulture Promotion Project




Agriculture Research and Development Sub Centre Tsirang

Name of videographer:

JICA Experts and ARDC Bajo Officials

2.5 Country/ region/ locations where the Technology has been applied and which are covered by this assessment



Region/ State/ Province:

Dagana Dzongkhag

Further specification of location:

Tsendagang Gewog

Specify the spread of the Technology:
  • applied at specific points/ concentrated on a small area
Is/are the technology site(s) located in a permanently protected area?



It is leased land and does not fall under a permanently protected area.

2.6 Date of implementation

Indicate year of implementation:


2.7 Introduction of the Technology

  • Through other farmers

3. Classification of the SLM Technology

3.1 Main purpose(s) of the Technology

  • improve production
  • reduce risk of disasters
  • mitigate climate change and its impacts
  • create beneficial economic impact
  • To improve livelihood

3.2 Current land use type(s) where the Technology is applied

Land use mixed within the same land unit:


Specify mixed land use (crops/ grazing/ trees):
  • Agroforestry



  • Annual cropping
  • Perennial (non-woody) cropping
  • Tree and shrub cropping
Annual cropping - Specify crops:
  • legumes and pulses - beans
  • vegetables - melon, pumpkin, squash or gourd
  • vegetables - other
  • Chilli
Perennial (non-woody) cropping - Specify crops:
  • banana/plantain/abaca
  • flower crops - perennial
Tree and shrub cropping - Specify crops:
  • tree nuts (brazil nuts, pistachio, walnuts, almonds, etc.)
Number of growing seasons per year:
  • 2
Is intercropping practiced?


If yes, specify which crops are intercropped:

Watermelon and zucchini are intercropped

Is crop rotation practiced?


If yes, specify:

Watermelon is followed by chilli or beans cultivation on the same land

3.3 Has land use changed due to the implementation of the Technology?

Has land use changed due to the implementation of the Technology?
  • Yes (Please fill out the questions below with regard to the land use before implementation of the Technology)
Land use mixed within the same land unit:


Forest/ woodlands

Forest/ woodlands

  • (Semi-)natural forests/ woodlands
  • Natural forest
Are the trees specified above deciduous or evergreen?
  • evergreen

The land is a cleared settlement from indigenous subtropical forest. Land use changed from subtropical forest to the agroforestry system where few native trees were retained with fruit trees and crops cultivated.

3.4 Water supply

Water supply for the land on which the Technology is applied:
  • full irrigation

Protected agriculture - especially greenhouses - depends on full irrigation with a drip irrigation system.

3.5 SLM group to which the Technology belongs

  • rotational systems (crop rotation, fallows, shifting cultivation)
  • improved plant varieties/ animal breeds
  • irrigation management (incl. water supply, drainage)

3.6 SLM measures comprising the Technology

agronomic measures

agronomic measures

  • A1: Vegetation/ soil cover
  • A2: Organic matter/ soil fertility
structural measures

structural measures

  • S1: Terraces
  • S11: Others
management measures

management measures

  • M1: Change of land use type

For the introduction of the technology, excavated or cut-and-fill bench terraces were built to install greenhouses.

3.7 Main types of land degradation addressed by the Technology

soil erosion by water

soil erosion by water

  • Wt: loss of topsoil/ surface erosion
soil erosion by wind

soil erosion by wind

  • Et: loss of topsoil
biological degradation

biological degradation

  • Bc: reduction of vegetation cover
  • Bp: increase of pests/ diseases, loss of predators
water degradation

water degradation

  • Hs: change in quantity of surface water

3.8 Prevention, reduction, or restoration of land degradation

Specify the goal of the Technology with regard to land degradation:
  • prevent land degradation

4. Technical specifications, implementation activities, inputs, and costs

4.1 Technical drawing of the Technology

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Technical specifications (related to technical drawing):

The technical drawing provided is for the low-cost greenhouse (Made up of bamboo). Generally, the length of a commercial greenhouse is 10 or 20 m and the width of 5 m. The greenhouse can be modified based on the crop to be cultivated. Additional facilities such as drip irrigation set, blower, fan, cooling pad and exhaust fan, temperature sensors are added modify the environment.


National Centre for Organic Agriculture, Yusipang

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Technical specifications (related to technical drawing):

Technical details for setting up 5m by 20m double poly house protected structure





4.2 General information regarding the calculation of inputs and costs

Specify how costs and inputs were calculated:
  • per Technology area
Indicate size and area unit:

3.75 acres

other/ national currency (specify):

Ngultrum (Nu.)

If relevant, indicate exchange rate from USD to local currency (e.g. 1 USD = 79.9 Brazilian Real): 1 USD =:


Indicate average wage cost of hired labour per day:


4.3 Establishment activities

Activity Timing (season)
1. Clearing of vegetations Winter
2. Agriculture land development Winter
3. Field preparation Winter
4. Installation of greenhouse and other structure Winter
5. Sowing and plantation of crops and fruits (especially late winter crops) Winter

The installation of a greenhouse can be done in any season. However, the most preferred time for the installation is in winter when the crops standing in the field are minimal and the land users are not involved in other farming activities such as paddy cultivation.

4.4 Costs and inputs needed for establishment

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour Farm establishment Number 30.0 500.0 15000.0 100.0
Labour Installation of structure and plantation Number 15.0 500.0 7500.0 100.0
Equipment Excavator (farm establishment) Number of days 12.0 24000.0 288000.0 100.0
Equipment Power tiller Per hour 16.0 250.0 4000.0 50.0
Plant material Dragon fruit Per sapling 300.0 50.0 15000.0
Plant material Watermelon seed Per packet 1.0 2700.0 2700.0
Construction material Greenhouse Number 6.0 80000.0 480000.0 20.0
Construction material Dragon fruit staking Number 39.0 700.0 27300.0 100.0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology 839500.0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology in USD 10626.58
If land user bore less than 100% of costs, indicate who covered the remaining costs:

Royal Government of Bhutan (RGoB)


For a greenhouse it costs Nu. 80000. Therefore, the total cost of six green houses that are available at the farm is Nu. 480000 (USD 5790). For the greenhouse, 80% is borne by the RGoB. However, for the overall establishment major costs were borne by the land user and a minimal cost was part of the subsidy/fund support from RGoB as shown in the table above. The land user has 4.9 acre of which 3.75 acre is cultivated and 0.11 acre is under protected agriculture.

4.5 Maintenance/ recurrent activities


The land user haven't carry out any maintenance due to the recent establishment of the farm. However, there is likely to have a maintenance cost of Nu. 5000 (USD 289) for the greenhouses and overall recurrent cost of Nu. 41975 (USD 506) per annum.

4.6 Costs and inputs needed for maintenance/ recurrent activities (per year)


No maintenance has been carried out

4.7 Most important factors affecting the costs

Describe the most determinate factors affecting the costs:

Infrastructure and machinery.

5. Natural and human environment

5.1 Climate

Annual rainfall
  • < 250 mm
  • 251-500 mm
  • 501-750 mm
  • 751-1,000 mm
  • 1,001-1,500 mm
  • 1,501-2,000 mm
  • 2,001-3,000 mm
  • 3,001-4,000 mm
  • > 4,000 mm
Agro-climatic zone
  • sub-humid

The area falls under a humid subtropical and warm subtropical zone among the six agro-ecological zones of Bhutan.

5.2 Topography

Slopes on average:
  • flat (0-2%)
  • gentle (3-5%)
  • moderate (6-10%)
  • rolling (11-15%)
  • hilly (16-30%)
  • steep (31-60%)
  • very steep (>60%)
  • plateau/plains
  • ridges
  • mountain slopes
  • hill slopes
  • footslopes
  • valley floors
Altitudinal zone:
  • 0-100 m a.s.l.
  • 101-500 m a.s.l.
  • 501-1,000 m a.s.l.
  • 1,001-1,500 m a.s.l.
  • 1,501-2,000 m a.s.l.
  • 2,001-2,500 m a.s.l.
  • 2,501-3,000 m a.s.l.
  • 3,001-4,000 m a.s.l.
  • > 4,000 m a.s.l.
Indicate if the Technology is specifically applied in:
  • not relevant

5.3 Soils

Soil depth on average:
  • very shallow (0-20 cm)
  • shallow (21-50 cm)
  • moderately deep (51-80 cm)
  • deep (81-120 cm)
  • very deep (> 120 cm)
Soil texture (topsoil):
  • coarse/ light (sandy)
Soil texture (> 20 cm below surface):
  • coarse/ light (sandy)
Topsoil organic matter:
  • high (>3%)
If available, attach full soil description or specify the available information, e.g. soil type, soil PH/ acidity, Cation Exchange Capacity, nitrogen, salinity etc.

Moisture content 3.31%, organic matter 5.03%, organic carbon 2.92%, pH 5.67, electrical conductivity 337.67 µs/cm, nitrogen 0.15%, phosphorus 0.09 ppm, potassium 123.07 mg/100ml, texture sand clay loam.
The soil analysis was conducted at the Science Laboratory of College of Natural Resources, Royal University of Bhutan, Lobesa, Punakha.

The soil data shared under the section 5.2 is for the growing media used inside the greenhouse. Land user adds organic manure to the existing topsoil which is used as a growing media.

5.4 Water availability and quality

Availability of surface water:


Water quality (untreated):

poor drinking water (treatment required)

Water quality refers to:

surface water

Is water salinity a problem?


Is flooding of the area occurring?


Comments and further specifications on water quality and quantity:

There is a water shortage during the winter season.

5.5 Biodiversity

Species diversity:
  • medium
Habitat diversity:
  • medium
Comments and further specifications on biodiversity:

The species and habitat diversity in the questions above are referred to the farm and not inside the greenhouse.

5.6 Characteristics of land users applying the Technology

Sedentary or nomadic:
  • Sedentary
Market orientation of production system:
  • commercial/ market
Off-farm income:
  • less than 10% of all income
Relative level of wealth:
  • average
Individuals or groups:
  • individual/ household
Level of mechanization:
  • mechanized/ motorized
  • men
Age of land users:
  • middle-aged

5.7 Average area of land used by land users applying the Technology

  • < 0.5 ha
  • 0.5-1 ha
  • 1-2 ha
  • 2-5 ha
  • 5-15 ha
  • 15-50 ha
  • 50-100 ha
  • 100-500 ha
  • 500-1,000 ha
  • 1,000-10,000 ha
  • > 10,000 ha
Is this considered small-, medium- or large-scale (referring to local context)?
  • large-scale

The land user has 4.9 acres of which 3.75 acres are cultivated. The average land holding in Bhutan is 3.4 acres, therefore the land users owning/farming more than 3.4 acres are categorized as large-scale.

5.8 Land ownership, land use rights, and water use rights

Land ownership:
  • individual, not titled
Land use rights:
  • leased
Water use rights:
  • communal (organized)
Are land use rights based on a traditional legal system?



Land leasing is a traditional legal system where the land user has a contract with the owner for 20 years. After the completion of the contract term, the land and the infrastructures are to be handed to the land owner.

5.9 Access to services and infrastructure

  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
technical assistance:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
employment (e.g. off-farm):
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
roads and transport:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
drinking water and sanitation:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
financial services:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good

6. Impacts and concluding statements

6.1 On-site impacts the Technology has shown

Socio-economic impacts


crop production

Comments/ specify:

Compared to open fields, protected agriculture has shown an increase in production. This could be due to the extended growing period, reduced disease incidence and ease of performing cultural activities.

crop quality

Comments/ specify:

The crop quality is improved in the protected agriculture as the optimum environmental conditions are provided.

risk of production failure

Comments/ specify:

The risk of production failure is reduced as the crop is not exposed to abiotic stress.

land management

Quantity before SLM:


Quantity after SLM:


Comments/ specify:

Land management in the protected cultivation is easier compared to open field.

Income and costs

expenses on agricultural inputs

Quantity before SLM:


Quantity after SLM:


Comments/ specify:

Initial investment for the establishment of the protected structure is high. However, the expenses on agricultural inputs were reduced after establishment. Further, the initial negative expenses are compensated by the return from selling the farm produce.

farm income

Quantity before SLM:


Quantity after SLM:


Comments/ specify:

There is a significant increase in the farm income after the establishment of the protected structure as the quantity and the quality of the high-value crops increased fetching higher prices. This has led to an increase in farm income.


Comments/ specify:

The workload has reduced after the establishment of the greenhouse. For example, the greenhouse is equipped with a drip irrigation system in which the land users can regulate the irrigation frequency and need not water the plants manually.

Socio-cultural impacts

food security/ self-sufficiency

Quantity before SLM:


Quantity after SLM:


Comments/ specify:

The increase in agricultural production has made the land user self-sufficient in certain fruits and vegetables. The technology has also contributed to the food security of the farm household as the income generated from the farm can be used to purchase nutritious foods that are not available on the farm.

6.2 Off-site impacts the Technology has shown

water availability

Comments/ specify:

Unlike flooding irrigation in open fields which requires a large amount of water, a protected structure optimizes water usage. It is achieved by drip irrigation and manual irrigation leading to minimum water wastage. This increases water availability on other parts of the farm or for the community.

6.3 Exposure and sensitivity of the Technology to gradual climate change and climate-related extremes/ disasters (as perceived by land users)

Gradual climate change

Gradual climate change
Season increase or decrease How does the Technology cope with it?
annual temperature increase very well
annual rainfall increase very well
seasonal rainfall summer increase very well

Climate-related extremes (disasters)

Biological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
epidemic diseases very well
insect/ worm infestation well

6.4 Cost-benefit analysis

How do the benefits compare with the establishment costs (from land users’ perspective)?
Short-term returns:

very negative

Long-term returns:


How do the benefits compare with the maintenance/ recurrent costs (from land users' perspective)?
Short-term returns:

neutral/ balanced

Long-term returns:

very positive

6.5 Adoption of the Technology

  • 11-50%
Of all those who have adopted the Technology, how many did so spontaneously, i.e. without receiving any material incentives/ payments?
  • 0-10%

6.6 Adaptation

Has the Technology been modified recently to adapt to changing conditions?


6.7 Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities of the Technology

Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the land user’s view
Improved market access. Protected structures enable off-season cultivation of certain high-value crops such as chilli and beans leading to higher market access and increased income.
Reduced pest and disease incidence. This could be due to optimum growing conditions provided to the plant and ease of pest and disease management. For example, the land user can remove a part of the plant that is infested or remove the crop that is infested in the particular greenhouse and still obtain the yield from other greenhouses. This is not possible in the open field condition.
Improved quality of the crops. The environmental conditions inside the greenhouse can be maintained at the optimum level required by plants leading to better quality produce.
Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view
Reduced workload. After the establishment of the protected structure, there is less workforce required for the cultivation.
Increased production. The land users can extend the growing period in the enclosed structure which leads to increased cropping season per year maximizing agricultural production.

6.8 Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks of the Technology and ways of overcoming them

Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the land user’s view How can they be overcome?
The establishment of the technology has high initial investment. Getting loans from financial institutions and sourcing fund from the government.
The farm is challenged with labour shortage. Increasing the daily wage of labour and providing necessary facilities such as clean drinking water, washing and toilet facilities and providing incentives to retain them.
Difficult to manage the farm. Improving record keeping, developing farm calendar and scheduling activities.

7. References and links

7.1 Methods/ sources of information

  • field visits, field surveys


  • interviews with land users


When were the data compiled (in the field)?


7.2 References to available publications

Title, author, year, ISBN:

ARDC Wengkhar. (2017). Activity completion report for CARELP support to ARDC-Wengkhar.

Available from where? Costs?

7.3 Links to relevant online information

Title/ description:

Polyhouse Construction Basics in Bhutan (Dzongkha language)


Links and modules

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