Knowledge and Agriculture

Education, the cornerstone of a knowledge economy, is given a low priority in developing countries. This is because of the vested interests of powerful but corrupt parliamentarians who find it in their interests to keep the masses subjugated and enslaved. Education brings understanding and awareness, and frees the minds to question those in power. Distorted forms of democracy in which there is no accountability of the rulers have been set up in many developing countries. Such democracies only serve a few corrupt leaders who loot and plunder at will.
The attempt in 2010 to destroy the Higher Education Commission (HEC) was the brainchild of some politicians with forged degrees who felt threatened by a high quality, merit-based organisation operating like an oasis in a sea of corruption. It was saved by the intervention of the Supreme Court of Pakistan on an appeal (filed by the Atta-ur-Rahman, Ms Marvi Memon and Azam Swati) that gave a judgment that the attempt to shred the HEC was unconstitutional. Now, however, some evil minds are plotting the death of the HEC again.
With their eyes on the Rs44 billion annual grant of higher education, some “honourable” parliamentarians have recently moved a bill in parliament that will take away the control of the funds from the HEC and give it to a federal ministry. At present the funds are controlled by a 17-member commission that includes the provincial secretaries of education, eminent educationists and respected citizens. India, by contrast, has decided to close down its University Grants Commission and establish an organisation similar to the HEC. The Indian cabinet approved the establishment of the National Commission on Higher Education and Research (NCHR) in December 2011.

AKISHIt is time for the political parties in Pakistan to unite, rise up once again and kill the vile attempt by the corrupt to take control of the Rs44 billion annually made available to the HEC for the operational and development needs of the universities in Pakistan.
By the year 2000 the gap between rich and poor countries had reached 500:1 (World Bank) and it continues to increase with every passing day. While some countries such as Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and, more recently, China have managed to narrow this gap between the rich and the poor, most other developing countries, including Pakistan, are lagging far behind. Knowledge and technological innovations are identified as two essential capabilities for bridging this gap. Since no country has all the resources to achieve technological competence in all fields, most countries have concentrated on finding one or two areas of specialisation for comparative advantage. For Pakistan, this advantage at present, according to our study, lies in the agriculture sector.
The agriculture sector in Pakistan supports two-thirds of the rural population and remains the largest income and employment generating sector of the economy but accounts for only 22 percent of the total gross domestic product. Pakistan has not been able to exploit its immense agriculture potential due to under- investment in human resource development and agriculture research. According to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIR), public expenditure for agriculture research in Pakistan as a percentage of agricultural GDP is only 0.29 percent, whereas India and Bangladesh spend 0.36 percent and Mexico and Kenya spend 1.21 percent and 1.30 percent, respectively.Agricultural-Knowledge-Economy-Olexe-Body-of-knowledge-v1
The 15-year agriculture reform and development vision for Pakistan was prepared under the supervision of one of us (Dr Atta-ur-Rahman). It involved research scientists, industrialists, farmers association and economists and identified critical skills, technology, management and public policy gaps in all fields of agriculture including major grain crops, horticulture, fisheries, animal husbandry, rangelands and forestry. Research areas, technological inputs and better operational practices needed in soil, seed, fertilisers, pesticides and water management as well as the transport, grain storage and cold chain infrastructure required for prevention of 40-45 percent of post harvest losses have been identified.
It was observed that 75 percent of Pakistan’s agriculture potential remains untapped. Crop yields on average are lower by 31-75 percent of the productivity level achieved at local research stations and lower by 50 percent to 83 percent in developed countries. These productivity gaps can be addressed through increased inputs in human resource development, research, technology and extension services and through improved management of resources and inputs. Improved access to institutional credit and access to local and international markets are essential prerequisites. Pakistan has all the basic ingredients to excel and eventually lead in agricultural innovation at regional level.
Most of the agriculture research organisations. however, are poorly managed and remain ill-equipped with modern machinery, library and information infrastructure and qualified staff. There are no incentives for scientists to innovate and there are weak linkages between stakeholders (i.e., researcher, farmers, entrepreneurs and policymakers) due to a weak extension services system. In order to carry out reforms of the system and to increase agriculture productivity an investment of Rs1078 billion will be required over a period of 15 years. This investment is expected to generate Rs2,368 billion as net benefits with an internal rate of return close to 108 percent (PIDE 2003).
At their initial stages of development most developed countries invested in agriculture innovations to eliminate rural poverty and to bridge the income inequality gap between rural and urban populations in their societies. China’s agriculture reform programme has not only lifted millions out of poverty but generated enough income for investment in industrial innovations. The successful programme, which began in the early 1980s, is premised on providing flexible, demand-driven packages of services, not just technology but also information, technical assistance, marketing and developing supply networks and supply chains.
In 1986, the Chinese ministry of science and technology initiated the nationwide “Spark” Programme (derived from the Chinese proverb “A single spark can start a prairie fire,” meaning that the spark of science and technology will spread over vast rural areas of China). Its overall objectives were to help transfer managerial and technological knowledge from more advanced sectors to rural enterprises and to help increase productivity and employment.
We need to learn how countries such as China, Egypt and India have modernised agriculture and are using it to tackle poverty and transition to a knowledge economy. Simultaneously we must resist continuing attempts by crooked minds to destroy the HEC.
Acknowledgement: We are grateful to Bilal Mirza, PhD Fellow, United Nations University-MERIT, the Netherlands, for his valuable input
Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman is former federal minister for science an technology and former chairman of the Higher Education Commission
Dr S T K Naim is an expert on STI policy and a consultant at COMSTECH, Islamabad.
Courtesy: The NEWS

Fruit Facial Mask

Fruit Facial MaskCosmetic company are now using fruit acids (AHAI’s), vitamins (antioxidants) and enzymes in many beauty products but also include a large amount of synthetics which can actually be injurious to the skin. In organic beauty, only fresh ingredients are used and therefore a highly active and most effective cure can be given. You will be amazed at how something as simple as dabbing some fresh lemon juice on your face every morning can make an vast difference in how soft your skin feels.

Try any of the following fruit acids, but always take care to avoid your eyes.

Lemon juice
Strawberries
Grapes
Malic acid (apples, vinegar, applesauce, cider)
Lactic acid (buttermilk, yogurt, powdered skim milk, sour cream, blackberries, tomatoes)
Tartaric acid (grapes, grape juice, wine, cream of tartar)
Citric acid (citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, grapefruit, and orange)
Glycolic acid (sugar cane)

We all are aware of the fact that fresh fruits are good for health and the core vitamin and the mineral lies in the pulp and the skin of any fruit. And just as they are useful to the body, these nutrients can provide excellent rejuvenating factor for our skin too. If you know the properties of each fruit, you can pamper yourself with an all-natural fruit mask, without spending too much time or money. Here are few fruits that can keep your skin smooth and healthy.

Apple & Avacado facial mask

Apple Facial mask

Apple Facial mask

Ingredients:

  • 1 cored apple cut into quarters
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • ½ teaspoon of sage

Procedure:

Chop up the apple quarters in a food processor. Add the honey and sage and then refrigerate for about 10 minutes. Lightly pat the mixture onto the face until the honey feels tacky. Leave it on the skin for 30 minutes and then rinse the face mask off with cool water.

Avocado Facial mask

Avocado Facial mask

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons hot water
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Procedure:

Mash the Avocado with a fork. Dissolve the honey into the water and mix well with fruits. Apply on your face smoothly. Let it sit on the skin for 10 minutes. Wash your face. It makes your skin soft and clean.

Source:Fruitsinfo

 

Biotechnology: Cotton Production Set to Increase

BY ORTON KIISHWEKO, 28 APRIL 2013

RECENTLY, the Ministry of State in the Vice-President’s Office (Environment) convened a meeting for stakeholders in the science community to deliberate on how crop genetic engineering can be used in the interest of agriculture and the local people in general.

At the meeting some stakeholders had concerns on whether there is conclusive research findings that show genetically engineered crops have no harm on human beings.

Biotechnology Cotton Production Set to Increase

The same week, a renowned Harvard University scholar, Prof Calestous Juma visited East Africa and said biotechnology and genetic engineering have the potential to do for agriculture, what mobile technology has done for the communications sector in Africa.

Prof Juma advocated for the adoption of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), saying they would boost food and income security. He, however, cautioned that it would be detrimental to adopt GMOs without clear, flexible and supportive biotechnology regulations. Prof Juma has authored several books on Africa’s development, including The New Harvest, which is arguably today’s most authoritative scholarly work on agriculture in Africa.

In his book, he argued that African agriculture is currently at a crossroads, at which persistent food shortages are compounded by threats from climate change. But, as the book argues, Africa faces three major opportunities that can transform its agriculture into a force for economic growth: advances in science and technology; the creation of regional markets and the emergence of a new crop of entrepreneurial leaders dedicated to the continent’s economic improvement.

Filled with case studies from within Africa and success stories from developing nations around the world, The New Harvest outlines the policies and institutional changes necessary to promote agricultural innovation across the African continent. Incorporating research from academia, government, civil society and private sector, the book suggests multiple ways that individual African countries can work with others at the regional level to develop local knowledge and resources, harness technological innovation, encourage entrepreneurship, increase agricultural output, create markets and improve infrastructure.

He emphasised the role of technology in transforming livelihoods, insisting that if Africa didn’t embrace GMOs in agriculture, the problems like climate change, pests and diseases that have dogged the sector over the years would devour production to shocking levels. He decried the phenomenon of resisting new technologies, saying it won’t help Africa to develop. On the safety of GMOs, he compared the current debate to the rumours that were circulated during the early days of mobile technology that the phones would cause brain cancer.

He said instead of focusing on rumours that discredit GMOs, it is prudent for governments to empower institutions to effectively check the safety standards of each product introduced on the market. He said biotechnology had caused a 24 per cent increase in cotton yield per acre and a 50 per cent growth in cotton profit among US smallholder farmers between 2006 and 2008. It raised consumption expenditure by 18% during the period.

He cited another report which said GMO crops that are pest-resistant had suppressed pests even beyond gardens where they were planted to assist farmers who don’t grow GMOs. “Biotechnology and in particular GMOs are not per se more risky than conventional plant breeding,” he asserted, and explained that genetic engineering would make agriculture more attractive and reduce the number of youth running away from rural areas.

The scholar’s position brought into focus the importance of genetic engineering perhaps starting with non-food crops in Tanzania, including cotton. Locally, stakeholders have urged that the government should institute a policy that allows agricultural scientists to conduct research and trials on GMOs in different research centres. The Environmental Management Act does not allow the application of such research and that it should therefore be amended. For example, one of the crops whose future has elicited so much debate is cotton.

Questions have been asked as to whether Bt Cotton can address the challenges in the cotton sector. The Tanzanian cotton sector has undergone dramatic changes since liberalisation in 1994. Stimulated by high producer prices, it has held either its position as either the most or second most important export crop in Tanzania in recent years. An estimated 40 per cent of the entire Tanzanian population is believed to derive their livelihood either directly or indirectly from cotton, grown by as many as half a million of mostly smallholder farmers.

A recent World Bank publication remarks that the sector is unique in that it is marked with too much competition amongst buyers – resulting in higher producer prices yet lower qualities – compared to the other sub Saharan cotton economies. This increased competition- as a trade-off-also resulted in comparatively lower yields, as credit based input provisioning is challenging in an environment where an overcapacity in ginning fuels side-selling.

The earlier South African case is illustrative in that the Tanzanian supply chain put into place via contract farming could serve a similar fate of struggling with recovering the debt and providing subsidized inputs, although measures are developed by the TCB to combat these issues. In addition to low yields obtained in a rain-fed environment, farmers in the sector struggle with lack of access to credit and extension service.

Research in the cotton sector also has been limited with poor seed quality, although the new UK M08 variety – developed at the Ukiriguru Cotton Institute – is planned for release as early as 2013/14. Furthermore, the intense competition has resulted in a comparatively lower cotton quality, as buyers are more focused on securing their quantities for their orders. While the quality is improved by half the ginneries operating roller gins and the entire harvest being hand-picked, the sector continues to suffer from the collapse of the textile industry after liberalization.

On average, only around 20 percent of the ginned cotton is consumed by domestic textile industries. The other 80 per cent are exported, thus revealing a potential source of domestic value addition as an estimated 90 per cent of the profits are obtained abroad (TCB 2010). These challenges were recognised by the Tanzanian Cotton Board as outlined in its Cotton Board Strategy of 2011-2013.

Outside of its domestic domain, the cotton sector is plagued by a range of global structural issues. These include competition from synthetic fibres and a long term decline in terms-of-trade for agricultural commodities (that was reversed in the short-term during the commodity booms in the last few years).

Courtesy: All Africa

5 Easy to Grow Mosquito-Repelling Plants

Before reaching for the chemical sprays, try planting these easy-to-grow plants which have natural mosquito-repelling properties…

5 Easy to Grow Mosquito Repelling PlantsAs the outdoor season approaches, many homeowners and outdoor enthusiasts look for ways to control mosquitoes. With all the publicity about the West Nile virus, mosquito repelling products are gaining in popularity. But many commercial insect repellents contain from 5% to 25% DEET. There are concerns about the potential toxic effects of DEET, especially when used by children. Children who absorb high amounts of DEET through insect repellents have developed seizures, slurred speech, hypotension and bradycardia.

There are new DEET-free mosquito repellents on the market today which offer some relief to those venturing outdoors in mosquito season. But there are also certain plants which are easy to grow and will have some effect in repelling mosquitoes from areas of your home and garden.

Here are five of the most effective mosquito repelling plants which are easy to grow in most regions of the US:

1. Citronella

Citronella is the most common natural ingredient used in formulating mosquito repellents. The distinctive citronella aroma is a strong smell which masks other attractants to mosquitoes, making it harder for them to find you. Although citronella is used in many forms, such as scented candles, torches and citronella ‘scented’ plants, the living plant is more effective because it has a stronger smell. Citronella

Citronella is a perennial ‘clumping’ grass which grows to a height of 5 – 6 feet. It can be grown directly in the ground in climate zones where frost does not occur. If grown in the garden or near the patio, it should be planted in the ‘background’, behind small decorative flowers and shrubs. In northern climate zones citronella can be grown in a large pot or planter, ideally with casters, so it can be rolled indoors during winter.

Gardening centers usually sell citronella as small plants in pots, ready to transplant to a larger pot or into raised garden beds on the ground. Once established, new plants can be propagated in early spring by splitting large clumps into smaller sections and replanting the new ‘starts’ in pots or other areas of the garden. Citronella plants are considered low maintenance, like most grasses, and they do best in full sun and well-drained locations. Periodic applications of nitrogen-rich fertilizers will ensure vigorous growth, but this treatment only needs to be applied once a year, preferably in early spring.

When purchasing citronella, look for the true varieties, Cybopogon nardus or Citronella winterianus. Other plants may be sold as ‘citronella scented’, but these do not have the mosquito repelling qualities of true citronella.

2. Horsemint

HorsemintAlso known as Beebalm, Horsemint is an adaptable perennial plant which repels mosquitoes much the same as citronella. It gives off a strong incense-like odor which confuses mosquitoes by masking the smell of its usual hosts.

Horsemint is a fast growing, shade-tolerant and drought-resistant plant which reaches a height and width of 2 – 3 feet. It does well in dry, sandy soil and can tolerate salty conditions, which is why it is often found in coastal and beach areas. Horsemint seeds can be sown indoors in trays for later transplanting, or sown directly into the ground in late summer in colder climate zones. Midwest and Eastern growing zones are favoured for growing horsemint.

Mature horsemint plants can be divided in spring and fall by dividing into small sections and transplanting into permanent locations. Horsemint can also be planted in pots for moving indoors in cold climate zones.

Horsemint leaves can be dried and used to make herbal tea. Its flowers will also attract bees and butterflies to your garden.

3. Marigolds

Commonly grown as ornamental border plants, marigolds are hardy annual plants which have a distinctive smell which mosquitoes, and some gardeners, find particularly offensive. Marigolds contain Pyrethrum, a compound used in many insect repellents. Marigolds

Marigolds prefer full sunlight and reasonably fertile soil. Although marigolds can be planted from seed, starter plants are inexpensive and readily available at most garden centers. Although an annual, marigold will often reseed itself in favourable conditions, or the gardener can easily collect seeds for future germination. Established plants will need to be thinned, and flowers should be dead-headed to promote additional blooms.

Potted marigolds can be positioned near entrances to your home and any common mosquito entry points, such as open windows. The smell may deter mosquitoes from going past this barrier. While marigolds can be used as border plants around the patio, we do not advise putting marigolds on the patio table since the bright blooms may attract wasps.

Besides repelling mosquitoes, marigolds repel insects which prey on tomato plants, so you may want to plant a few marigolds in your tomato bed for added protection.

4. Ageratum

AgeratumAlso known as Flossflowers, Ageratum emits a smell which mosquitos find particularly offensive. Ageratum secretes coumarin, which is widely used in commercial mosquito repellents.

Ageratum is a low-lying annual ornamental plant which reaches heights of 8 – 18”, and is easily recognized by its blue flowers, although there are varieties with pink, white and violet blooms. This plant will thrive in full or partial sun and does not require rich soil. It is often displayed in rock gardens where low-lying plants are favoured.

Although the leaves of Ageratum can be crushed to increase the emitted odor, it is not advisable to rub the crushed leaves directly on the skin.

5. Catnip

Catnip is a natural mosquito repellent. In August 2010, entomologists at Iowa State University reported to the American Chemical Society that catnip is ten times more effective than DEET, the chemical found in most commercial insect repellents. According to Iowa State researcher Chris Peterson, the reason for its effectiveness is still unknown. “It might simply be acting as an irritant or they don’t like the smell. But nobody really knows why insect repellents work.” Catnip

In the laboratory, Peterson put groups of 20 mosquitoes in a two-foot glass tube, half of which was treated with nepetalactone, a biologically active characteristic constituent of catnip. After 10 minutes, only an average of 20 percent – about four mosquitoes – remained on the side of the tube treated with a high dose (1.0%) of the oil. In the low dose test (0.1%) an average of 25% – five mosquitoes – stayed on the treated side. When the same tests were conducted using DEET (diethyl-meta-toluamide), approximately 40 to 45% – eight to nine mosquitoes – remained on the treated side. A ten-fold higher concentration of DEET was required to obtain results similar to those of the Catnip.

Catnip, Nepeta cateria, is very easy to grow. This perennial herb is related to mint, and grows readily both as a weed and a commercially cultivated plant in most areas of the US.

While catnip will repel mosquitoes in close proximity to the plant, some people apply crushed catnip leaves or catnip oil for more robust protection. Bear in mind, however, that cats will respond to you similarly as they would respond to the plant itself. Cat owners may want to choose an alternative plant for repelling mosquitoes.

While the plants mentioned in this article have been shown to have mosquito-repelling properties, there are environmental variables that can mitigate their effectiveness. A breeze may direct odors in the opposite direction if advancing mosquitoes, reducing the plant’s effectiveness. New formulations of non-toxic mosquito repellents are commercially available, and are advised for people who want to enjoy the outdoors without the annoyance of persistent mosquitoes.

Source: EarthEasy

Pakistan farmers grapple with climate change

Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio

Gujar Khan, Pakistan – After five consecutive dry winters, Abdul Qadeer was jubilant at the prospect of a plentiful harvest of wheat after December rains soaked his farmland.

But the 39-year-old farmer’s hopes were destroyed last month by torrential spring rains and a hailstorm that flattened his wheat crop.

Qadeer is one of many farmers suffering the effects of unpredictable weather patterns and variable rainfall, which scientists believe are linked to climate change.

Now Pakistan’s government is trying to introduce crop insurance to save farmers from economic ruin. Qadeer, who farms land in Gujar Khan, approximately 55 km southeast of Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, vividly recalls the unexpected volley of pebble-sized hailstones that lashed his 15-acre (6-hectare) field for about 15 minutes one day in the last week of March.

“I could clearly hear dull, clunking sounds of the hailstones that slashed through the stalks of the standing wheat crop and knocked (the ears of wheat) to the ground,” Qadeer said.

He had anticipated harvesting a good crop in the second week of April, but the unseasonal storm destroyed his wheat, causing losses of 800,000 Pakistani rupees ($8,000).

Zaman Ali, a farmer in Islamabad’s southern suburb of Chak Shahzad, says 70 percent of the wheat he was growing on 9 acres (3.6 hectares) was destroyed by strong winds and heavy rain.

Farmers are really defenceless when such unwanted torrential rains and hailstorms strike their crops. We are really completely at the mercy of the weather

Muhammad Riaz, farmer,

Ali believes the yield from the remaining wheat will reach only 60 percent of what it should have been, because the rains brought unseasonably low temperatures, preventing the grain from maturing properly. Ali described the weather as unprecedented in his 15 years of experience growing crops.

“Farmers are really defenceless when such unwanted torrential rains and hailstorms strike their crops,” said Muhammad Riaz, who lost crops worth about 1.6 million rupees ($16,000) on his 24-acre (10-hectare) farm in Haripur, 65 km (40 miles) north of Islamabad. “We are really completely at the mercy of the weather.”

Insurance coming soon?

“The solution to such grim situations that are becoming frequent lies in crop insurance,” said Nazar Muhammad Gondal, Pakistan’s former federal minister for food and agriculture. “Farmers can at least recover some of the financial damages, and are able to cultivate next season crops.”

Crop insurance is not currently available in Pakistan, but Iftikhar Ahmed, chairman of the state-owned Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC), said the government is leading negotiations with insurance firms and banks to introduce a national crop insurance programme, similar to those introduced in Sri Lanka, India and Nepal. It is hoped the insurance will be available by mid-November this year.

In Pakistan, wheat is sown in mid-October and harvested in mid-April. Around 16 million acres (6.5 million hectares) are planted with wheat every year, yielding around 25 million tonnes of grain.

“Eight to 10 years ago, the spring season used to come in the first week of March and last for 25 to 30 days. Now, it comes in late March and lasts for only 15 to 20 days,” said farmer Qadeer.

Spring rain is a rare phenomenon in Pakistan, particularly in northern and central areas. The inclement weather lowered the temperature by 20 degrees Celsius to around 9 degrees this year.

“From March to mid-April, the wheat crop needs (temperatures) above 30 degrees Celsius for its healthy growth of stalk and grain, and to avoid pest attacks,” said Qamar-uz-Zaman Chaudhry, the World Meteorological Organisation’s vice president for the Asia region and a former director-general of the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD).

According to PARC’s Ahmed, high moisture levels in the air have also led to fungus and insect infestations.

Production drops

Officials at the federal food security and research ministry in Islamabad say they expect wheat production from rain-fed land to be 30 percent lower than normal as a result of the extreme weather.

Ghulam Rasul, chief meteorologist at the PMD, said that although hailstorms can be forecast six to 12 hours in advance, the damage they cause to crops cannot be staved off.

“We had predicted both torrential rains and hailstorms on March 23 and 24 in the upper and central parts of the country, and dust storms and intermittent rains for two to four days in the last week of March in southern and coastal areas,” he said.

“Since these untimely or unseasonal rains and hailstorm came at a time when most of the winter crops such as wheat, mustard, vegetables were near harvest, nothing could be done to save the standing crops,” he explained.

Ibrahim Mughal, chairman of Agri Forum Pakistan, a nongovernmental farmers’ body based in Lahore, said the government has consulted with representatives of farmers’ groups about ways to make a national insurance programme effective.

The views of smallholders are key because their share of cultivation is around 75 percent.

“We have suggested that, without a mass awareness campaign about the benefits of crop insurance and subsidising premiums for small or subsistence farmers…the insurance programme is unlikely to win the hearts of farmers,” said Mughal.

This article first appeared on the Thomson Reuters Foundation news service

Source: Al Jazeera

Resource Conserving Agri-Technologies

Authors:

 Habib Ullah, Dr. Ehsanullah and Dr. Shakeel Ahmad Anjum, Associated with Agro-biology lab, department of Agronomy, University of Agriculture Faisalabad.

clip_image002

Pakistan is an agricultural country. Contribution of agriculture sector in the GDP is about 21%. It provides employment to 45% of country’s labor force and is source of livelihood for 60% of the rural population. It has a vital role in ensuring food security, generating overall economic growth, and reducing poverty. Our population is increasing very quickly, there is lot of population pressure on the agriculture sector. To feed this high population we are trying to enhance the agriculture productivity on the expense of land, water, labor, capital, climate and other resources ignoring the recommendations for good agricultural practices. Industrialization and urbanization Habib Ullahhas further aggravated the problem by reducing the area of production and polluting the land, water and environment which is a direct threat to our agricultural productivity. With the unbalanced use of our resources, we have created many problems such as loss of fertile land, water logging, soil salinity, erosion, pollution of above ground and underground water, habitat destruction etc. We are wasting our water resources which are decreasing rapidly. 75% area of Pakistan is dependent on irrigation water. Our mismanagement of resources is a permanent cause of the higher levels of CO2 emissions and temperature increase leading to climate change with extreme events which are destructive to our resources and agriculture productivity, which may cause the food security issues to rise up. Food security is a global problem and especially for Pakistan, it is a great challenge. About 30% of our population is living below poverty line, and our farmer is also very poor with small land holdings. The high prices of inputs (fuel, seed, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, machinery and electricity etc) have added much to the anxiety of the farmers. Farmers are living a subsistent life. Our average crop yields are much lower than other countries despite having lot of potential. Despite of great recent progress, hunger and poverty remain widespread and agriculturally driven environmental damage is widely prevalent. The idea of agricultural sustainability centers on the need to develop technologies and practices that do not have adverse effects on environmental goods and services, and that lead to improvements in productivity per unit area and profitability. Resource Conserving Technology (RCT) is a broad term that refers to any management approach or technology that increases factor productivity including land, labor, capital and inputs. Some of these technologies are briefly described here as;

1. Bed planting of crops

Bed planting of cropsIt is sowing of crops on the raised leveled surface. Crop is sown on beds in lines Size of bed and furrow depth depends on the type of crop and soil. Bed planter is used for making beds and/or sowing seeds. Using either Dry or Wet sowing method crop can be sown. Irrigation is applied in the furrows. For the sowing of wheat, University of Agriculture Faisalabad has developed a university bed planter machine. It makes two beds and three furrows in the same operation; bed width is 2 feet with four rows of wheat sowing on it, and furrow width is 1 foot. The first row of wheat on bed is sown 3 inches away from either side of furrow, and 2nd row is sown 5 inches away from first line from either side; between these two lines there is a buffer zone with width of 8 inches for the accumulation of any salt. In this planting geometry of crop, plant population is not reduced in any way. This technology saves 40-50% water, reduces the seed rate upto 10%, better weed control and 20% increase in the yield of the crop has been achieved. Similarly other crops can also be grown successfully on beds such as cotton etc.

2. Wheat residue management

Wheat residue managementAfter combine harvesting wheat, wheat stalks are a problem. To manage these residues Prof. Dr Ehsanullah (department of agronomy, university of agriculture Faisalabad) has developed a technology of sowing of Sesbania crop in the wheat. Presoaked seed (10-12 hours) @ 10 kg/acre is broadcasted in the standing wheat after last irrigation in the end of March or in start of April. After one month almost, wheat crop is harvested. Sesbania plants height is much smaller than wheat and escapes from combine harvester. After second irrigation to sesbania it is buried down in the soil along with wheat stalks. To accelerate the process of decomposition, half bag urea per acre can be added. This technology improves the soil health, manages wheat residues, reduces the fertilizer requirements to half and improves next crop yield.

3. Laser land leveling

Laser land levelingIt is a process of smoothing the land surface (± 2 cm) from its average elevation by using laser-equipped drag buckets, soil movers which are equipped with global positioning systems (GPS) and/or laser-guided instrumentation. To level the land, soil can be moved either by cutting or filling to create the desired slope/level. This technology gives uniform soil moisture distribution, better water application and distribution, good germination, enhanced input use efficiency, reduces weed , pest, and disease problems, reduced consumption of seeds, fertilizers, chemicals and fuel and improved yields. It may have cost and expertise constraints.

4. Direct seeding of Rice

It is a cost effective technology for the seeding of rice crop. The dry seed is drilled into the non-Direct seeding of Ricepuddled soils with proper land leveling and weed control measures. Sowing of seeds at a depth of 2-3 cm is done with zero till, minimum till machine or broadcasting it after ploughing and leveling the field at @ 12-15kg/acre, fine and Basmati varieties will need 10-12kg/acre. The seed is then covered with the thin layer of soil to aid in proper germination and to avoid the birds damage. Soil moisture in soil should be sufficient for better germination. The sowing of crop starts from end of May to start of June. The problem of weeds is tackled by application of pre-emergence herbicides or by stale seedbed method. Next weeding can be done manually. This technology saves water by 10-30%, avoids soil degradation and plow-pan formation, saves labor, energy, fuel, seeds, and gives 10% higher yields with 10-15 days early maturation of crop.

5. Relay cropping of wheat

Relay cropping of wheatRelay cropping consists of interseeding the second crop into the first crop well before it is harvested. It is a form of intercropping in which both crops enjoy a short term association; first crop is at its maturity and second crop is at its initial stage. Wheat is important crop for Pakistan. Due to late maturing varieties of cotton, sowing of wheat goes upto December and January. It is experimentally proved that after November, 15 the yield of wheat is reduced @ 10-15 kg/acre/day. And with the introduction of Bt-cotton, about 7-10% area under wheat has been reduced. So both these problems are direct threat to our wheat production and self sufficiency. Relay cropping of wheat into cotton facilitates timely sowing of wheat, gives extra cotton pickings, saves the land preparation and labor charges, improves soil health and increases yields. It is economically and environmentally viable technology.

6. Zero tillage

Zero tillageZero tillage is one of a set of strategies aimed to enhance and sustain farm production by conserving and improving soil, water and biological resources. Essentially, it maintains a permanent or semi-permanent organic soil cover (e.g. a growing crop or dead mulch) that protects the soil from sun, rain and wind and allows soil micro-organisms and fauna to take on the task of “tilling” and soil nutrient balancing – natural processes disturbed by mechanical tillage systems. For example, there was a lot of problem of rice stubbles for the sowing of wheat, farmers were burning the residues destroying soil or managing it by disc plough or rotavator increasing cost of production. To address this issue; new technology of Turbo seeder has been introduced. It cuts and churns the stubbles and places it between the rows of seed drilled into the soil by inverted ‘T’ shaped openers. There is no problem of operation or germination as observed in Zone disk tiller and Happy seeder. It decreases cost of production; improves soil health, saves water, labor and energy.

7. Drip irrigation

Drip irrigationWidespread appreciation of the “global water crisis” recognizes that scarcity of clean water is affecting food production and conservation of ecosystems. By 2025 it is predicted that most developing countries will face either physical or economic water scarcity. So we have to go for efficient irrigation methods. Drip irrigation is one of them. It irrigates the plants drop by drop on the soil surface or directly into the root zone with the help of network of pump, valves, pipes, tubing, and emitters. It reduces evaporation, controls weeds, increase water and fertilizer use efficiency, saves water and fertilizer and increase yields.

8. Precision Farming

It is a farming management concept based on observing and responding to intra-field variations with the goal of optimizing returns on inputs while preserving resources. It relies on new technologies like satellite imagery, information technology, and geospatial tools. GPS, GIS and Remote sensing satellites can track the soil variability, can assess the nutritional status of the soil, disease prevalence and can predict the yields. These technologies can reduce the input rates, decrease cost of production, increase yields and can reduce the environmental concerns.

9. Solar water pumps

Solar Water PumpWith the current energy crisis scenario all over the world, and especially for Pakistan it is need of the day to utilize renewable energy sources for power generation to use for different purposes. Solar water pumps get solar energy from the sun and convert it into electricity by which water pumps can run for pumping of water for irrigation purposes. It is economical and environmental friendly technology.

10. Biogas Plants

Biogas is a flammable gas produced from renewable resources that can be used in many applications as an alternative to fossil fuel-based natural gas. A biogas plant is an anaerobic digester of organic material for the purposes of treating waste and concurrently generating biogas fuel. The feedstock of this plant is the animal dung, plant material, grease food wastes etc. Biogas converts this farm waste to biogas which can be used for home cooking purpose, lightning and for pumping water for irrigation.

Important Note: © Copyright to Agriculture Information Bank (agrinfobank.com), Without  Permission Reproduce/Reprint/Republished by any means, of this article is strongly prohibited. In case of copyright violation, strong action should be taken.

Role of Potassium in Crop Yield

Potassium is vital to many plant processes. A review of its role involves under-standing the basic biochemical and physiological systems of plants. While K does not become a part of the chemical structure of plants, it plays many important regulatory roles in development.

Enzyme Activation

Enzymes serve as catalysts for chemical reactions, being utilized but not consumed in the process. They bring together other molecules in such a way that the chemical reaction can take place.

ROLE OF POTASSIUM IN PLANTSPotassium “activates” at least 60 different enzymes involved in plant growth. The K changes the physical shape of the enzyme molecule, exposing the appropriate chemically active sites for reaction. Potassium also neutralizes various organic anions and other compounds within the plant, helping to stabilize pH between 7 and 8…optimum for most enzyme reactions.

The amount of K present in the cell deter-mines how many of the enzymes can be activated and the rates at which chemical reactions can proceed. Thus, the rate of a given reaction is controlled by the rate at which K enters the cell.

Stomatal Activity (Water Use)

Plants depend upon K to regulate the opening and closing of stomates…the pores through which leaves exchange carbon diox-ide (CO 2), water vapor, and oxygen (O2) with the atmosphere. Proper functioning of stomates is essential for photosynthesis, water and nutrient transport, and plant cooling. When K moves into the guard cells around the stomates, the cells accumulate water and swell, causing the pores to open and allowing gases to move freely in and out.

When water supply is short, K is pumped out of the guard cells. The pores close tightly to prevent loss of water and minimize drought stress to the plant. If K supply is inadequate, the stomates become sluggish – slow to respond – and water vapor is lost. Closure may take hours rather than minutes and is incomplete. As a result, plants with an insufficient supply of K are much more susceptible to water stress.

Accumulation of K in plant roots produces a gradient of osmotic pressure that draws water into the roots. Plants deficient in K are thus less able to absorb water and are more subject to stress when water is in short supply.

Photosynthesis

The role of K in photosynthesis is complex. The activation of enzymes by K and its involvement in adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production is probably more important in regulating the rate of photosynthesis than is the role of K in stomatal activity.

When the sun’s energy is used to combine CO2and water to form sugars, the initial high-energy product is ATP. The ATP is then used as the energy source for many other chemical reactions. The electrical charge bal-ance at the site of ATP production is maintained with K ions. When plants are K deficient, the rate of photosynthesis and the rate of ATP production are reduced, and all of the processes dependent on ATP are slowed down. Conversely, plant respiration increases which also contributes to slower growth and development.

In some plants, leaf blades re-orient toward light sources to increase light interception or away to avoid damage by excess light, in effect assisting to regulate the rate of photosynthesis. These movements of leaves are brought about by reversible changes in turgor pressure through movement of K into and out of specialized tissues similar to that described above for stomata.

Transport of Sugars

Role of Potassium in Crop YieldSugars produced in photo-synthesis must be transported through the phloem to other parts of the plant for utilization and storage. The plant’s transport system uses energy in the form of ATP. If K is inadequate, less ATP is available, and the transport system breaks down. This causes photosynthates to build up in the leaves, and the rate of photosynthesis is reduced. Normal development of energy storage organs, such as grain, is retarded as a result. An adequate supply of K helps to keep all of these processes and transportation systems functioning normally.

Water and Nutrient Transport

Potassium also plays a major role in the transport of water and nutrients throughout the plant in the xylem. When K supply is reduced, translocation of nitrates, phosphates, calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), and amino acids is de-pressed. As with phloem transport systems, the role of K in xylem transport is often in con-junction with specific enzymes and plant growth hormones. An ample supply of K is essential to efficient operation of these systems.

Protein Synthesis

Potassium is required for every major step of protein synthesis. The “reading” of the genetic code in plant cells to produce proteins and enzymes that regulate all growth processes would be impossible without adequate K. When plants are deficient in K, proteins are not synthesized despite an abundance of avail-able nitrogen (N). Instead, protein “raw materials” (precursors) such as amino acids, amides and nitrate accumulate. The enzyme nitrate reductase catalyzes the formation of proteins, and K is likely responsible for its activation and synthesis.

Starch Synthesis

The enzyme responsible for synthesis of starch (starch synthetase) is activated by K. Thus, with inadequate K, the level of starch declines while soluble carbohydrates and N compounds accumulate. Photosynthetic activity also affects the rate of sugar formation for ultimate starch production. Under high K levels, starch is efficiently moved from sites of production to storage organs.

Crop Quality

Potassium plays significant roles in enhancing crop quality. High levels of avail-able K improve the physical quality, disease resistance, and shelf life of fruits and vegetables used for human consumption and the feeding value of grain and forage crops. Fiber quality of cotton is improved. Quality can also be affected in the field before harvesting such as when K reduces lodging of grains or enhances winter hardiness of many crops. The effects of K deficiency can cause reduced yield potential and quality long before visible symptoms appear. This “hidden hunger” robs profits from the farmer who fails to keep soil K levels in the range high enough to supply adequate K at all times during the growing season. Even short periods of deficiency, especially during critical developmental stages, can cause serious losses.

Upping your nutrition quota

If aesthetics aren’t a good enough reason to grow herbs, consider the fact that many herbs are good for you, too. According sugar-surplusto the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), a teaspoon of dill seed contains 32 milligrams of calcium; a teaspoon of ground basil contains 6 milligrams of magnesium. But when it comes to nutrients, the herbal champ is the chili pepper: One tea-spoon of chili powder contains potassium, sodium, ascorbic acid (vitamin C),  niacin, and vitamin A. (However, if you decide to substitute chili powder for  your multivitamin, we recommend taking each teaspoon with a gallon of milk  to offset the heat of the chili.)
A few culinary herbs have recently made the news because of their antioxidant levels. Antioxidantsare chemicals contained in plants that are thought  to play a role in preventing some forms of cancer, as well as in helping to  slow the aging process. In one study researchers tested the antioxidant levels of a variety of herbs and found the highest levels in oregano, sage, peppermint, and thyme. They concluded that herbs are an important source of  dietary antioxidants, right up there with red wine and green tea.

Why Organic Food?

The existence of an organic movement first became apparent to me in the late 1990s while living in California. Produce with organic labelling and farmers’ markets touting all-organic foods began sprouting up in every neighbourhood.organic_food1Organic

Believing that the organic alternative provided more nutritious and environmentally friendly products, an increasing number of consumers sought them out. As organic products came at a significantly higher price than their standard counterparts, this was no cheap choice. But it was a choice made not only by those who could afford it, but also by many less affluent individuals such as my university classmates, who were willing to sacrifice more of what little they had for peace of mind.

Although the appeal of organic produce was growing in the US, it was still a small part of the market at the time I left the US.

Returning from California’s fertile Central Valley, one of the world’s most productive agricultural areas, to what I believed was the UAE’s dry, barren desert, I was surprised to find any farms, let alone organic ones.

Not only were local farms beginning the transition to an organic model, but the government had also established a system to certify organic farms and foods.

To date, 28 Emirati farms have been certified as organic by the Emirates Authority for Standardization & Metrology under the Ministry of Environment and Water.

Although this is just a fraction of the more than 35,000 farms across the country, many more are in the process of, or considering, the switch to organic farming.

This is a direct result of the increase in the demand for organic foods by Emirati consumers, which stems from their belief in the taste and environmental and health benefits of such products.

organic1(1)With the absence of chemicals, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides that can harm local wildlife, plants, insects and groundwater, organic farming methods promote local biodiversity and improve water quality.

Some of the organic methods used include breeding and releasing crop-beneficial insects and deterring parrots from vegetables and fruits by providing them with food such as sunflowers.

In addition to the benefits of organic methods, consuming local produce significantly reduces the carbon footprint created to transport these products from around the globe.

Some disagree with this view, saying that the use of desalinated and groundwater for irrigation significantly increases the foods’ carbon footprint and squanders a precious and valuable resource.

But this stance discredits the continuous improvements in water use made by the farming community such as better irrigation techniques and natural cooling systems, as well as the benefit to the local communities and their economies.

The sight of locally produced organic food in the aisles of the supermarkets and stalls of markets has always surprised me due to its presence and price.But as the numbers of local organic farms rises, I hope to see an increase in availability as well as a decrease in price in the future.

Source: The Nation

Agriculture Sector in Pakistan I 2012-2013

The federal government has decided to withdraw 5 percent sales tax on sizing, weaving and warping sectors comprising small manufacturers and allow sales tax zero-rating facility to these sectors of the textile chain in budget (2012-2013). Sources told.

Farming is Pakistan’s largest economic activity. In FY 1993, agriculture, and small-scale forestry and fishing, contributed 25 percent of GDP and employed 48 percent of the labor force. Agricultural products, especially cotton yarn, cotton cloth, raw cotton, and rice, are important exports. Although there is agricultural activity in all areas of Pakistan, most crops are grown in the Indus River plain in Punjab and Sindh. Considerable development and expansion of output has occurred since the early 1960s; however, the country is still far from realizing the large potential yield that the well-irrigated and fertile soil from the Indus irrigation system could produce. The floods of September 1992 showed how vulnerable agriculture is to weather; agricultural production dropped dramatically in FY 1993.

Land Use

Agriculture Sector in PakistanPakistan’s total land area is about 803,940 square kilometers. About 48 million hectares, or 60 percent, is often classified as unusable for forestry or agriculture consists mostly of deserts, mountain slopes, and urban settlements. Some authorities, however, include part of this area as agricultural land on the basis that it would support some livestock activity even though it is poor rangeland. Thus, estimates of grazing land vary widely–between 10 percent and 70 percent of the total area. A broad interpretation, for example, categorizes almost all of arid Balochistan as rangeland for foraging livestock. Government officials listed only 3 million hectares, largely in the north, as forested in FY 1992. About 21.9 million hectares were cultivated in FY 1992. Around 70 percent of the cropped area was in Punjab, followed by perhaps 20 percent in Sindh, less than 10 percent in the North-West Frontier Province, and only 1 percent in Balochistan.

Since independence, the amount of cultivated land has increased by more than one-third. This expansion is largely the result of improvements in the irrigation system that make water available to additional plots. Substantial amounts of farmland have been lost to urbanization and waterlogging, but losses are more than compensated for by additions of new land. In the early 1990s, more irrigation projects were needed to increase the area of cultivated land.

The scant rainfall over most of the country makes about 80 percent of cropping dependent on irrigation. Fewer than 4 million hectares of land, largely in northern Punjab and the North-West Frontier Province, are totally dependent on rainfall. An additional 2 million hectares of land are under nonirrigated cropping, such as plantings on floodplains as the water recedes. Nonirrigated farming generally gives low yields, and although the technology exists to boost production substantially, it is expensive to use and not always readily available.

Irrigation

In the early 1990s, irrigation from the Indus River and its tributaries constituted the world’s largest contiguous irrigation system, capable of watering over 16 million hectares. The system includes three major storage reservoirs and numerous barrages, headworks, canals, and distribution channels. The total length of the canal system exceeds 58,000 kilometers; there are an additional 1.6 million kilometers of farm and field ditches.

Partition placed portions of the Indus River and its tributaries under India’s control, leading to prolonged disputes between India and Pakistan over the use of Indus waters. After nine years of negotiations and technical studies, the issue was resolved by the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960. After a ten-year transitional period, the treaty awarded India use of the waters of the main eastern tributaries in its territory–the Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej rivers. Pakistan received use of the waters of the Indus River and its western tributaries, the Jhelum and Chenab rivers.

After the treaty was signed, Pakistan began an extensive and rapid irrigation construction program, partly financed by the Indus Basin Development Fund of US$800 million contributed by various nations, including the United States, and administered by the World Bank. Several immense link canals were built to transfer water from western rivers to eastern Punjab to replace flows in eastern tributaries that India began to divert in accordance with the terms of the treaty. The Mangla Dam, on the Jhelum River, was completed in 1967. The dam provided the first significant water storage for the Indus irrigation system. The dam also contributes to flood control, to regulation of flows for some of the link canals, and to the country’s energy supply. At the same time, additional construction was undertaken on barrages and canals.

A second phase of irrigation expansion began in 1968, when a US$1.2 billion fund, also administered by the World Bank, was established. The key to this phase was the Tarbela Dam on the Indus River, which is the world’s largest earth-filled dam. The dam, completed in the 1970s, reduced the destruction of periodic floods and in 1994 was a major hydroelectric generating source. Most important for agriculture, the dam increases water availability, particularly during low water, which usually comes at critical growing periods.

Despite massive expansion in the irrigation system, many problems remain. The Indus irrigation system was designed to fit the availability of water in the rivers, to supply the largest area with minimum water needs, and to achieve these objectives at low operating costs with limited technical staff. This system design has resulted in low yields and low cropping intensity in the Indus River plain, averaging about one crop a year, whereas the climate and soils could reasonably permit an average of almost 1.5 crops a year if a more sophisticated irrigation network were in place. The urgent need in the 1960s and 1970s to increase crop production for domestic and export markets led to water flows well above designed capacities. Completion of the Mangla and Tarbela reservoirs, as well as improvements in other parts of the system, made larger water flows possible. In addition, the government began installing public tube wells that usually discharge into upper levels of the system to add to the available water. The higher water flows in parts of the system considerably exceed design capacities, creating stresses and risks of breaches. Nonetheless, many farmers, particularly those with smallholdings and those toward the end of watercourses, suffer because the supply of water is unreliable.

The irrigation system represents a significant engineering achievement and provides water to the fields that account for 90 percent of agricultural production. Nonetheless, serious problems in the design of the irrigation system prevent achieving the highest potential agricultural output.

Water management is based largely on objectives and operational procedures dating back many decades and is often inflexible and unresponsive to current needs for greater water use efficiency and high crop yields. Charges for water use do not meet operational and maintenance costs, even though rates more than doubled in the 1970s and were again increased in the 1980s. Partly because of its low cost, water is often wasted by farmers.

Good water management is not practiced by government officials, who often assume that investments in physical aspects of the system will automatically yield higher crop production. Government management of the system does not extend beyond the main distribution channels. After passing through these channels, water is directed onto the fields of individual farmers whose water rights are based on long-established social and legal codes. Groups of farmers voluntarily manage the watercourses between main distribution channels and their fields. In effect, the efficiency and effectiveness of water management relies on the way farmers use the system.

The exact amounts of water wasted have not been determined, but studies suggest that losses are considerable and perhaps amount to one-half of the water entering the system. Part of the waste results from seepages in the delivery system. Even greater amounts are probably lost because farmers use water whenever their turn comes even if the water application is detrimental to their crops. The attitude among almost all farmers is that they should use water when available because it may not be available at the next scheduled turn. Moreover, farmers have little understanding of the most productive applications of water during crop-growing cycles because of the lack of research and extension services. As a result, improvements in the irrigation system have not raised yields and output as expected. Some experts believe that drastic changes are needed in government policies and the legal and institutional framework of water management if water use is to improve and that effective changes can result in very large gains in agricultural output.

Drainage

The continuous expansion of the irrigation system over the past century significantly altered the hydrological balance of the Indus River basin. Seepage from the system and percolation from irrigated fields caused the water table to rise, reaching crisis conditions for a substantial area. Around 1900 the water table was usually more than sixteen meters below the surface of the Indus Plain. A 1981 survey found the water table to be within about three meters of the surface in more than one-half the cropped area in Sindh and more than one-third the area in Punjab. In some locations, the water table is much closer to the surface. Cropping is seriously affected over a wide area by poor drainage–waterlogging–and by accumulated salts in the soil.

Although some drainage was installed before World War II, little attention was paid to the growing waterlogging and salinity problems. In 1959 a salinity control and reclamation project was started in a limited area, based on public tube wells, to draw down the water table and leach out accumulated salts near the surface, using groundwater for irrigation. By the early 1980s, some thirty such projects had been started that when completed would irrigate nearly 6.3 million hectares. By 1993 the government had installed around 15,000 tube wells. Private farmers, however, had installed over 200,000 mostly small tube wells, mainly for irrigation purposes but also to lower the water table. Private wells probably pumped more than five times as much water as public wells.

Officials were aware of the need for additional spending to prevent further deterioration of the existing situation. Emphasis in the 1980s and early 1990s was on rehabilitation and maintenance of existing canals and watercourses, on farm improvements on the farms themselves (including some land leveling to conserve water), and on drainage and salinity in priority areas. Emphasis was also placed on short-term projects, largely to improve the operation of the irrigation system in order to raise yields. Part of the funding would come from steady increases in water use fees; the intention is gradually to raise water charges to cover operation and maintenance costs. Considerable time and money are needed to realize the full potential of the irrigation system and bring it up to modern standards.

Farm Ownership and Land Reform

At independence Pakistan was a country with a great many small-scale farms and a small number of very large estates. Distribution of landownership was badly skewed. Less than 1 percent of the farms consisted of more than 25 percent of the total agricultural land. Many owners of large holdings were absentee landlords, contributing little to production but extracting as much as possible from the sharecroppers who farmed the land. At the other extreme, about 65 percent of the farmers held some 15 percent of the farmland in holdings of about two hectares or less. Approximately 50 percent of the farmland was cultivated by tenants, including sharecroppers, most of whom had little security and few rights. An additional large number of landless rural inhabitants worked as agricultural laborers. Farm laborers and many tenants were extremely poor, uneducated, and undernourished, in sharp contrast to the wealth, status, and political power of the landlord elite.

After independence the country’s political leaders recognized the need for more equitable ownership of farmland and security of tenancy. In the early 1950s, provincial governments attempted to eliminate some of the absentee landlords or rent collectors, but they had little success in the face of strong opposition. Security of tenancy was also legislated in the provinces, but because of their dependent position, tenant farmers benefited only slightly. In fact, the reforms created an atmosphere of uncertainty in the countryside and intensified the animosity between wealthy landlords and small farmers and sharecroppers.

In January 1959, accepting the recommendations of a special commission on the subject, General Mohammad Ayub Khan’s government issued new land reform regulations that aimed to boost agricultural output, promote social justice, and ensure security of tenure. A ceiling of about 200 hectares of irrigated land and 400 hectares of nonirrigated land was placed on individual ownership; compensation was paid to owners for land surrendered. Numerous exemptions, including title transfers to family members, limited the impact of the ceilings. Slightly fewer than 1 million hectares of land were surrendered, of which a little more than 250,000 hectares were sold to about 50,000 tenants. The land reform regulations made no serious attempt to break up large estates or to lessen the power or privileges of the landed elite. However, the measures attempted to provide some security of tenure to tenants, consolidate existing holdings, and prevent fragmentation of farm plots. An average holding of about five hectares was considered necessary for a family’s subsistence, and a holding of about twenty to twenty-five hectares was pronounced as a desirable “economic” holding.

In March 1972, the Bhutto government announced further land reform measures, which went into effect in 1973. The landownership ceiling was officially lowered to about five hectares of irrigated land and about twelve hectares of nonirrigated land; exceptions were in theory limited to an additional 20 percent of land for owners having tractors and tube wells. The ceiling could also be extended for poor-quality land. Owners of expropriated excess land received no compensation, and beneficiaries were not charged for land distributed. Official statistics showed that by 1977 only about 520,000 hectares had been surrendered, and nearly 285,000 hectares had been redistributed to about 71,000 farmers.

The 1973 measure required landlords to pay all taxes, water charges, seed costs, and one-half of the cost of fertilizer and other inputs. It prohibited eviction of tenants as long as they cultivated the land, and it gave tenants first rights of purchase. Other regulations increased tenants’ security of tenure and prescribed lower rent rates than had existed.

In 1977 the Bhutto government further reduced ceilings on private ownership of farmland to about four hectares of irrigated land and about eight hectares of nonirrigated land. In an additional measure, agricultural income became taxable, although small farmers owning ten hectares or fewer–the majority of the farm population–were exempted. The military regime of Zia ul-Haq that ousted Bhutto neglected to implement these later reforms. Governments in the 1980s and early 1990s avoided significant land reform measures, perhaps because they drew much of their support from landowners in the countryside.

Government policies designed to reduce the concentration of landownership had some effect, but their significance was difficult to measure because of limited data. In 1993 the most recent agricultural census was that of 1980, which was used to compare statistics with the agricultural census of 1960. Between 1960 and 1980, the number of farms declined by 17 percent and farms decreased in area by 4 percent, resulting in slightly larger farms. This decline in the number of farms was confined to marginal farms of two hectares or fewer, which in 1980 represented 34 percent of all farms, constituting 7 percent of the farm hectarage. At the other extreme, the number of very large farms of sixty hectares or more was 14,000–both in 1960 and in 1980–although the average size of the biggest farms was smaller in 1980. The number of farms between two and ten hectares increased during this time. Greater use of higher-yielding seeds requiring heavier applications of fertilizers, installations of private tube wells, and mechanization accounted for much of the shift away from very small farms toward mid-sized farms, as owners of the latter undertook cultivation instead of renting out part of their land. Observers believed that this trend had continued in the 1980s and early 1990s.

In early 1994, land reform remained a controversial and complex issue. Large landowners retain their power over small farmers and tenants, especially in the interior of Sindh, which has a feudal agricultural establishment. Tenancy continues on a large-scale: one-third of Pakistan’s farmers are tenant farmers, including almost one-half of the farmers in Sindh. Tenant farmers typically give almost 50 percent of what they produce to landlords. Fragmented holdings remain a substantial and widespread problem. Studies indicate that larger farms are usually less productive per hectare or unit of water than smaller ones.

Cropping Patterns and Production

In the early 1990s, most crops were grown for food. Wheat is by far the most important crop in Pakistan and is the staple food for the majority of the population. Wheat is eaten most frequently in unleavened bread called chapati. In FY 1992, wheat was planted on 7.8 million hectares, and production amounted to 14.7 million tons.

Output in FY 1993 reached 16.4 million tons. Between FY 1961 and FY 1990, the area under wheat cultivation increased nearly 70 percent, while yields increased 221 percent. Wheat production is vulnerable to extreme weather, especially in nonirrigated areas. In the early and mid-1980s, Pakistan was self-sufficient in wheat, but in the early 1990s more than 2 million tons of wheat were imported annually.

Rice is the other major food grain. In FY 1992, about 2.1 million hectares were planted with rice, and production amounted to 3.2 million tons, with 1 million tons exported. Rice yields also have increased sharply since the 1960s following the introduction of new varieties. Nonetheless, the yield per hectare of around 1.5 tons in FY 1991 was low compared with many other Asian countries. Pakistan has emphasized the production of rice in order to increase exports to the Middle East and therefore concentrates on the high-quality basmati variety, although other grades also are exported. The government increased procurement prices of basmati rice disproportionately to encourage exports and has allowed private traders into the rice export business alongside the public-sector Rice Export Corporation.

Other important food grains are millet, sorghum, corn, and barley. Corn, although a minor crop, gradually increased in area and production after independence, partly at the expense of other minor food grains. Chickpeas, called gram in Pakistan, are the main nongrain food crop in area and production. A number of other foods, including fruits and vegetables, are also grown.

In the early 1990s, cotton was the most important commercial crop. The area planted in cotton increased from 1.1 million hectares in FY 1950 to 2.1 million hectares in FY 1981 and 2.8 million hectares in FY 1993. Yields increased substantially in the 1980s, partly as a result of the use of pesticides and the introduction in 1985 of a new high-yielding variety of seed. During the 1980s, cotton yields moved from well below the world average to above the world average. Production in FY 1992 was 12.8 million bales, up from 4.4 million bales ten years earlier. Output fell sharply, however, to 9.3 million bales in FY 1993 because of the September 1992 floods and insect infestations.

Other cash crops include tobacco, rapeseed, and, most important, sugarcane. In FY 1992 sugarcane was planted on 880,000 hectares, and production was 35.7 million tons. Except for some oil from cottonseeds, the country is dependent on imported vegetable oil. By the 1980s, introduction and experimentation with oilseed cultivation was under way. Soybeans and sunflower seeds appear to be suitable crops given the country’s soil and climate, but production was still negligible in the early 1990s.

Source:  Rehmananwar Blogspot