The battle for Pakistan’s agriculture

August 28, 2013 Najma Sadeque

The first battle never really took off even after 66 years – restoring unduly appropriated land to the tiller – and a second more destructive and far-reaching battle is already upon us. Monoculture killed three-fourths of global biodiversity and soils: GM can only hasten extinction.
In recent decades, the sovereignty of many countries has been undermined by the bullying impositions of corporations backed by their own governments. This extends to forcing the adoption of so-called “level playing ground” rules that cannot apply to our socio-economic and environmental conditions: fictitious “equal standing” is simply not possible between unequals.
After a long struggle, during which time the US government tried to push sanctions against the European Union if it banned or discouraged GM crops (from USA), the EU finally prevailed. And last week, financial news agencies reported on hedge funds and insider traders dumping Monsanto stock, driving prices down. That includes Monsanto’s own CEO Hugh Grant selling off 40,000 of his own company’s shares, followed by other high-level executives. Worse is expected to follow.
The reasons were the same as elsewhere – the hazards that GMOs pose to human, animal and environmental health, Monsanto’s dangerous experiments that have lead to widespread GM pollution and cancer, and its predatory business practices. No longer welcome in Europe while facing rising opposition at home, Monsanto’s last hope for market lies in developing countries such as ours, where regulation is weak. The battle for Pakistan’s agriculture
There is an interesting similarity to Monsanto’s powers of persuasion used in USA, India and Pakistan. Monsanto has long been ‘cosy’ with US Congressmen, getting its way entirely throughout, and helpfully eased through by former Monsanto executives vaulted to government.
In India, the push to introduce Bt cotton was also engineered from top officialdom, but it was not easy. India is a huge country with many fiercely independent states, all with a strong and informed say, turning the entire farmers’ communities and public interest groups against Monsanto. While it still prevails perforce in some areas with Bt cotton, it has failed with GM food crops; and given the 200,000 farmer suicides to-date, its days seem to be numbered.
Similarly, in Pakistan, the National Biosafety Committee and other regulators are under great pressure to approve GM crops. There was quite a hue and cry in 2011 when Monsanto was exposed to have written the biotech report, which was circulated for unilateral approval without being examined in-depth. But it takes two to clap hands; the head of PARC and the Vice Chancellor of Faisalabad University had thrown their full support behind GM crops.
There are 61 federal and provincial agricultural agencies (led originally by Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC) and National Agricultural Research Centre (NARC), which were devolved to the provinces in 2010. Now PARC is trying to get an extraordinary position for itself at the federal level as an umbrella organisation over all other agencies from where it will be easier to impose decisions onto the provinces. For the same reason, foreign interests such as USAID, therefore, prefer working with all-encompassing federal institutions.
This effort is remindful of the recent furore over the Farmer Assurance Provision, recently signed into law by President Barack Obama. But it had little to assure farmers with and more with boosting big agro-chemical corporations, so that it earned the title of “Monsanto Protection Act”. A provision was anonymously and secretively slipped into a resolution, as part of the Agricultural Appropriations Bill. It turned out to be a special interest loophole about which most lawmakers were unaware when they signed it. Over a quarter of million outraged US citizens then signed a petition launched by the “Food Democracy Now” network demanding the President veto it.
Why were people so angry? The provision shielded big biotech companies like Monsanto from legal action, even if a particular product proved to be harmful to humans or the environment. For the period that the provision is in place, both the Department of Agriculture and the courts are rendered powerless to stop Monsanto from producing or selling the product, no matter how toxic. The Congress actually blocked the judiciary from doing its job! According to Al-Jazeera, the provision was partly drafted by Monsanto and sneaked in through their insider friends, bypassing the necessary review from Congress’ Agricultural or Judiciary Committees.
Later, the Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Barbara Ann Mikulski, offered her apologies, claiming she did not put the offending text in and did not support it either. So, why was she so careless as to let it get through without it being discussed?image
Fortunately, the provision is effective only until September 30, 2013. By then, activists will be fighting hard to prevent it being made permanent, just as activists here will have to ensure that PARC does not become the sole decision-maker and law unto itself like the corrupted agricultural regulatory authorities in the US.
Ijaz Ahmed Rao is one such committed activist-farmer, who took it on himself to keep farmers, government decision-makers, agricultural institutions, the media and concerned citizens informed of global and local developments, good and bad, through his press writings and extensive email network – not the easiest task in an area that does not arouse strong feelings the way power politics does.
A graduate of Charles Stuart University, Australia, and a professional farmer in Bahawalpur for the last 15 years, he became interested in agro-biotechnology early on when he found his preference for organic farming difficult to pursue without government technical backup and in difficult terrain dependant on toxic river water, highly-polluted by industrial and agro-chemical runoff. He hoped to find solutions in gene technology, and initially supported the introduction of GM crops in Pakistan. But experience, controversies and data from independent sources and events since 2007 changed his mind: he concluded the technology was overhyped and MNCs were misrepresenting facts.
Between a billion and two billion rupees – all taxpayer money – is spent annually on Pakistan’s agricultural agencies to do research and related work. And though they will offer a list of impressive projects, some in collaboration with “foreign” establishments, they do not include what smallholder peasants or farmers like Ijaz Rao really need or want, such as organic farming, something they could revive with Cuba’s help, today the global leader and teacher in advanced techniques.
“Large-scale GM trials have still not been conducted in Pakistan and the process is being bulldozed so that everything is approved before the new government realises what’s really going on,” adds Rao.
Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has, reportedly, refused to give in to the GM lobby. If that’s true, stakeholders may not immediately lose the battle over Pakistan’s agriculture after all.
The writer is a former journalist and currently director of The Green Economic Initiative at Shirkat Gah, a rights and advocacy group.

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What is Reverse Osmosis?

Although Reverse Osmosis seems like a complex system it is really a simple and straightforward water filtration process. And it’s not a new process. High-pressure (pump driven) reverse osmosis systems have been used for years to desalinate water – to convert brackish or seawater to drinking water. Having a better understanding of how a reverse osmosis system works will eliminate the mystery and confusion you may feel when you look at a reverse osmosis system — with its many colored tubes and multitude of filters. Read on to enhance your knowledge of residential reverse osmosis systems.

The most important points to remember:

  • All RO Systems work the same way.
  • Most RO (Reverse Osmosis) systems look alike.
  • All RO Systems have the same basic components.
  • The real difference is the quality of the filters and membranes inside the RO.

reverse osmosis diagram

How the Reverse Osmosis System Works?

Reverse Osmosis is a process in which dissolved inorganic solids (such as salts) are removed from a solution (such as water). This is accomplished by household water pressure pushing the tap water through a semi permeable membrane. The membrane (which is about as thick as cellophane) allows only the water to pass through, not the impurities or contaminates. These impurities and contaminates are flushed down the drain.

For a definition of **Reverse Osmosis.

Ultimately, the factors that affect the performance of a Reverse Osmosis System are:

  • Incoming water pressure
  • Water Temperature
  • Type and number of total dissolved solids (TDS) in the tap water
  • The quality of the filters and membranes used in the RO System (see operating specs)

Diagram of a Reverse Osmosis Membrane:

Reverse Osmosis Membrane Diagram

What does a Reverse Osmosis System Remove?

A reverse osmosis membrane will remove impurities and particles larger than .001 microns.

Reverse Osmosis System Removals

TYPICAL REJECTION CHARACTERISTICS OF R.O. MEMBRANES
Elements and the Percent R.O. Membranes will remove

Sodium   85 – 94%
Sulfate   96 – 98%
Calcium 94 – 98%
Potassium 85 – 95%
Nitrate 
60 –75%
Iron
94 – 98%
Zinc 95 – 98%
Mercury 95 – 98%
Selenium
94 – 96%
Phosphate  96 – 98%
Lead 95 – 98%
Arsenic
92 – 96%
Magnesium 94 – 98%
Nickel 96 – 98%
Fluoride
85 – 92%
Manganese
94 – 98%
Cadmium 95 – 98%
Barium 
95 – 98%
Cyanide
84 – 92%  
Chloride 85 – 92%

% may vary based on membrane type water pressure, temperature & TDS

Basic components common to all Reverse Osmosis Systems:

  1. Cold Water Line Valve:   Valve that fits onto the cold water supply line. The valve has a tube that attaches to the inlet side of the RO pre filter. This is the water source for the RO system.
  2. Pre-Filter (s):   Water from the cold water supply line enters the Reverse Osmosis Pre Filter first. There may be more than one pre-filter used in a Reverse Osmosis system. The most commonly used pre-filters are sediment filters. These are used to remove sand silt, dirt and other sediment. Additionally, carbon filters may be used to remove chlorine, which can have a negative effect on TFC (thin film composite) & TFM (thin film material) membranes. Carbon pre filters are not used if the RO system contains a CTA (cellulose tri-acetate) membrane.
  3. Reverse Osmosis Membrane:   The Reverse Osmosis Membrane is the heart of the system. The most commonly used is a spiral wound of which there are two options: the CTA (cellulose tri-acetate), which is chlorine tolerant, and the TFC/TFM (thin film composite/material), which is not chlorine tolerant.
  4. Post filter (s):   After the water leaves the RO storage tank, but before going to the RO faucet, the product water goes through the post filter (s). The post filter (s) is generally carbon (either in granular or carbon block form). Any remaining tastes and odors are removed from the product water by post filtration.
  5. Automatic Shut Off Valve (SOV):  To conserve water, the RO system has an automatic shutoff valve. When the storage tank is full (this may vary based upon the incoming water pressure) this valve stops any further water from entering the membrane, thereby stopping water production. By shutting off the flow this valve also stops water from flowing to the drain. Once water is drawn from the RO drinking water faucet, the pressure in the tank drops and the shut off valves opens, allowing water to flow to the membrane and waste-water (water containing contaminants) to flow down the drain.
  6. Check Valve:   A check valve is located in the outlet end of the RO membrane housing. The check valve prevents the backward flow or product water from the RO storage tank. A backward flow could rupture the RO membrane.
  7. Flow Restrictor:   Water flow through the RO membrane is regulated by a flow control. There are many different styles of flow controls. This device maintains the flow rate required to obtain the highest quality drinking water (based on the gallon capacity of the membrane). It also helps maintain pressure on the inlet side of the membrane. Without the flow control very little drinking water would be produced because all the incoming tap water would take the path of least resistance and simply flow down the drain line. The flow control is located in the RO drain line tubing.
  8. Storage Tank:   The standard RO storage tank holds up to 2.5 gallons of water. A bladder inside the tank keeps water pressurized in the tank when it is full.
  9. Faucet:   The RO unit uses its own faucet, which is usually installed on the kitchen sink. In areas where required by plumbing codes an air-gap faucet is generally used.
  10. Drain line:   This line runs from the outlet end of the Reverse Osmosis membrane housing to the drain. This line is used to dispose of the impurities and contaminants found in the incoming water source (tap water). The flow control is also installed in this line.

Diagram of a Reverse Osmosis System with Basic Components:
Reverse Osmosis System Diagram

Quality of RO Membranes and Filters – They’re not all alike!

While one RO System may look just like the next in terms of design and components, the quality of those components can be very different. These differences can have a significant impact on the quality of the water the system produces.

Here are some examples of questions you might ask and consequences associated with “less than desirable” quality.

  • Has the manufacturer used sound methods? What types of welds have been used in these plastic products? Will they allow contaminated water to bypass the filtration system? Will they allow the system to leak?
  • How has this filter or membrane been created? Will it allow the water to ‘channel’ and, in effect, bypass the removal component of this device?
  • What about the quality of the ‘fill’? Are it’s contents of a high enough quality to produce the expected percentage of contaminant reduction? Carbon quality, for instance, can have huge variances in reduction capability, reduction capacity, and the sloughing of ‘fines’, which can prematurely clog or foul the RO Membrane.
  • What are the manufacturer’s controls on tolerances or variations in specifications? If this component is rated as a 1-micron filter will it truly filter out everything larger than 1 micron or will it only do the job 80% of the time? And, what if it actually filters at a .5-micron rate? That will stop the system from flowing — clogging it and forcing filter replacement? If this is a sediment filter and it fails the excess sediment will clog or foul the RO Membrane.
  • And in general – Are the materials used in this product FDA or NSF (National Safety Foundation) approved? If not, you might question their quality or performance ability.

Source: e.s.p water products

Minister for setting up of modern livestock market in Lahore

August 29, 2013

Punjab Minister for Housing Malik Tanvir Aslam Awan has directed the authorities concerned to take steps on emergent basis for provision of best meat, milk and poultry products to the citizen. He also issued special directives to local government department for setting up of a modern livestock market in Lahore extending all necessary facilities for livestock buyers and sellers. Minister for setting up of modern livestock market in Lahore
He was chairing a meeting to bring about positive changes for rearing exotic livestock breeds to provide high quality and high yield of meat and milk to the masses. The meeting proposed provision of Rs 87 million for completion of 11 farms on immediate basis and Rs 88 million for completion of ongoing projects left incomplete in 19 districts of the province. Another Rs 82 million was demanded for preservation of green fodder.
The Minister also directed to prepare a comprehensive plan for creating awareness amongst masses about promotion of rural poultry farming and checking the problems faced by the livestock industry and proposing its solutions. The Minister said it is the vision of the Chief Minister Punjab to provide healthy meat and milk to the masses in the province and departments should work for this cause on war footing.

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Turkish consortium to establish 10 slaughter houses in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

August 29, 2013

The provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with the assistance of Turkey will establish 10 modern slaughter houses in all big cities of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa including provincial metropolis Peshawar on experimental basis. On the success the project would be further extended. Turkish consortium to establish 10 slaughter houses in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
The decision was taken during a meeting held here at Civil Secretariat with Senior Minister, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sirajul Haq in the chair. Besides, Provincial Minister for Agriculture and Livestock, Shehram Khan Tarakai, the meeting was also attended by the representatives of Turkish consortium, Director, National University of Science and Technology, Ahmad Sohail Khan, senior officials of the departments of finance, livestock, local bodies, planning and development, health and food.
Under the project in these slaughter houses cattle would be slaughtered according to world health standard and beside provision of quality meat, the wastes would also be made useful and export them and earn foreign exchange for the province. For this purpose, a Turkish consortium, which has expertise in the sector, offered extending both financial and technical support to the provincial government. For this project the consortium will provide US $50 million funds while the provincial government will provide 10 percent Equity Fund.
The Senior Minister after unanimous approval constituted a committee under the chairmanship of Provincial Minister for Agriculture, Shahram Khan Tarakai for preparation of terms of references and speedy implementation of the project. The committee is given three weeks for finalising the terms of references and issuing of the tender of notice for the project.
Speaking on the occasion, Senior Minister said the provincial government is facing severe challenges in different sectors including agriculture and industries, but these problems instead of years would be resolved in months and days. He said for retrieving the people or the grave problem of load shedding through initiating 20 hydro-power projects with capacity of producing 25,000 megawatts electricity and besides bio-thermal projects have also been started utilising alternative sources of energy including solar. The Senior Minister said beside Federal Government, Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan, the provincial government has also invited expatriate Pakistanis for making investment in the province.

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Advisory to date-palm growers

August 29, 2013

Punjab Agriculture Department (PAD) has advised the intending date-palm growers to plant the trees in September and October as grafting of this plant is done in these months in Muzaffargarh, Dera Ghazi Khan, Bahawalpur and Jhang (known areas of palm production in the Punjab province). Advisory to date-palm growersSpokesman of the department said on Wednesday that place for plantation should be prepared 10 to 15 days before sowing and should be filled with water and silt. He also said that appropriate pesticide should be applied to the plant while sowing to save it from termite attack and plant should weigh from 10 to 15 kilograms at that time. He said that all the plants should be planted at 20 to 25 feet away from each other and every line of plants should also distance the same with each other. The spokesman also advised the growers to only plant recommended varieties of date-palm.

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Agriculture sector to be developed at grassroots level

August 29, 2013

Senior Joint Director, Agricultural Credit & Microfinance Department, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Mohammad Imaduddin has said that the central bank is conducting financial literacy and awareness programs at grass-root level to improve access of the farming community to finance. Agriculture sector to be developed at grassroots level
He expressed these views while inaugurating a one-day ‘Farmers’ Financial Literacy & Awareness programme on Agricultural Financing’ in collaboration with Bank of Khyber at District Haripur on Wednesday. He said that the SBP’s multi-pronged strategy to increase agricultural credit outreach includes mainstreaming of agriculture finance, removing policy and regulatory impediments, capacity building of commercial banks and information dissemination and awareness building campaigns for the farming community.
Highlighting the objectives of Farmers Financial Literacy & Awareness Program, he said that the program shows the commitment of the State Bank and the banking sector to develop the agriculture sector at grass root level. Besides, SBP Senior Joint Director Muhammad Imaduddin, BoK’s EVP and Group Head Credits, Imran Samad, SBP Joint Director, Ikramullah Qadri, SBP Chief Manager Rawalpindi, Asad Shah, BOK Head Agricultural Credits, Gul Kiaz Khan, BOK Chief Manager Haripur Branch Malik Jehanzeb Khan, Head Agricultural Department University of Haripur, Dr Hakim Khan, members of social community, bankers and representatives of agricultural extension department and farming community also attended the program.
It may be pointed out that the State Bank of Pakistan in collaboration with SBP BSC & commercial/microfinance banks has launched a country-wide ‘Farmers’ Financial Literacy & Awareness program on Agricultural Financing’ which is being conducted in the selected agriculture-intensive districts in all provinces of the country.

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7 Ways To Use Stevia In Your Summer Menu

If you’re on a sugar-restricted diet, summer might be a difficult season. From frozen treats to bbq’d meats, summer is filled with sugary delights. A great option for sugar-free foods is Stevia, a natural sweetener extracted from the stevia plant. Here are 7 ways you can use Stevia in your summer menu.7 Ways To Use Stevia In Your Summer Menu

Chocolate Frozen Yogurt – A sweet frozen treat doesn’t have to be bad for you! This chocolate frozen yogurt is easy to make and healthy, and can be eaten frozen or as a pudding. Mix 6 oz of plain Greek yogurt with 2 tablespoons of unsweetened baking cocoa, and add Stevia to taste. Freeze for about thirty minutes, then stir.

Cheesecake Pops – A cool twist on an old favorite, these strawberry cheesecake pops are a great way to cool down on a summer night. Mix 4 oz cream cheese, ¼ cup almond milk, and 4 tablespoons of Stevia until smooth. Stir in sliced strawberries and pour into Popsicle molds. Freeze for two to four hours and serve.

Sticky chicken on the Grill – Sweet and savory combine for this summer grilling dish. Combine 1 ½ tablespoons Stevia, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 3 tablespoons tomato sauce, 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce, 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon 5 spice powder and 1 clove of garlic. Marinate four chicken breasts in this mixture for at least two hours, then grill as normal.

Tangy Salad Dressing – Sweet, tangy and fresh, this is a great dressing for summertime meals. Mix 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil, juice from 1 large lemon, ½ teaspoon Stevia, one clove of garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk together well, drizzle over mixed greens and toss the salad well before serving. This mixture can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Iced Mocha – For your summer afternoon shot of energy, try an Iced Mocha. Mix 2 tablespoons of Stevia and 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, then whisk ½ cup of milk into the chocolate mixture. Add ½ cup brewed coffee (if possible, chill the coffee before mixing), then pour the mixture into a tall glass. Garnish with a long cinnamon stick.

Asian Chicken Salad – This quick, cool salad has Asian inspiration, and can be eaten as a meal or a side. For the dressing, mix 1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 2 packets of Stevia, ½ tablespoon of mustard and ½ teaspoon bottled ground ginger. Whisk together the ingredients. Toss 3 cups of coleslaw mix, 3 oz of chopped chicken breast, a small mandarin orange and 1 tablespoon of sliced almonds. Drizzle the dressing over your salad and toss until fully coated.

Coffee Baked Beans – Beans are the perfect match for barbeque food, but this twist will leave your guests’ mouths watering. Bring together ½ cup tomato sauce, 3 tablespoons Stevia, 2 tablespoons molasses, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 2 teaspoons dry mustard and ½ teaspoon ground ginger to a boil, and stir until well mixed. Add the mixture to a crock pot filled with 1 pound of cooked navy beans; Add ½ cup brewed coffee, 1 ½ cups boiling water and 1 medium onion. Cook for 7 to 8 hours, adding water as the mixture cooks to keep them soft.

Amanda is a social media manager for a health care organization by day and a blogger and freelance writer by night. She’s also a mom to an amazing 2 year-old boy and wife to a great guy who indulges all her celebrity gossip. Amanda loves coffee, fashion, Twitter, makeup, nail polish, and cats (not always in that order.) Her work has been published on family.com and blogher.com. For more celebrity gossip, fashion, beauty and DIY, visit Amanda’s blog, It’s Blogworthy (http://itsblogworthy.com) or follow her on Twitter and Google+.

Hydroponics — Its history and use in barren land

As in due course of time, Pakistan may have to make use of its barren lands to meet the food requirement of its rapid growing population

By Dr. S.M. ALAM and Dr. R. ANSARI
NIA, Tandojam
Apr 09 – 15, 2001

There are many excellent works, one can point out, which sufficiently presents the early work, that was done with the hydroponics (soilless) culture of plants. Woodward in 1699 made the earliest use of water culture method without any solid material. During the 1700s, several workers attempted to find out, what caused plants to grow. Later on in 1800s, Sachs and Knop in Germany conducted experiments, which helped to determine that certain essential elements were contributors to plant growth. Out of this early research proved the basic for preparing and managing the nutrient solution for growing plants. It was during the hundred years period from 1850 to the mid l900s, that all the currently recognized essential elements required by plants all over the world were discovered.Hydroponics — Its history and use in barren land

The word “Hydroponics” is a term commonly used in describing solution culture, water culture, liquid culture, chemical culture, aqua culture, vermiculiculture soilless culture or any of a variety of invented names. In the scientific field, it is used as a general term for growing plants without soil, whether water, sand, gravel, or any other inert material. These techniques may be divided into several categories, such as with and without root supporting media and static aerated or following nutrient solution with or without its reuse. Sand or gravel culture, the nutrients solution either periodically flooding the growing bed or vessel of dripped through it, is still widely used technique. However, the water culture method was developed in 1929 by Prof. W.F. Gericke of University of California Researcher, who demonstrated on a semi-commercial basis that plants could be grown to maturity without any soil. No other aspect of plant production has caught the fancy of the public than soilless growing normally thought of the public as hydroponics. Popularized in the 1930’s by various books and writings on the object, hydroponics become a widely and frequently used technique for growing plants and vegetables in various countries of the world. However, this soil less culture procedure is not well suited, where precise control of the nutrient elements is desired. In 1930, there was a renewed interest in hydroponics. These most significant researches being done on soilless culture, primarily hydroponics, was being conducted at the Environmental Research Laboratory, Tucson, Arizona, USA and at the Glasshouse Crops Research Institute, Littlehampton, England. Later on, it was adapted in many other countries of the world. There are several factors, which control the growing of plants in soilless culture. These factors are control of pH, chemicals to be used in nutrient elements, electrical conductivity of the nutrients solution and temperature of the nutrient solution, and aeration of solution.

There are large barren areas (highly saline, sandy and gravelly areas) in Thar deserts, Thal and Cholistan, in the provinces of Sindh and Punjab, where normal agriculture is not feasible due to absence of good quality soil and enough sweet irrigation water. In such areas, hydroponic culture has proved an alternative for raising fresh vegetable crops. In this system, instead of soil, gravel or sand serves as the supporting medium and nutrient solution containing N, P, K, Ca, Mg, S, Fe, Mn, Zn, Cu, B, Mo, and Cl serve as plant food and due to the recycling of irrigation water, there is manifold saving on irrigation water. It may even be possible to use underground brackish water under hydroponics system.

Hydroponics use in Pakistan: As in due course of time, Pakistan may have to make use of its barren lands to meet the food requirement of its rapid growing population, it is considered worthwhile to explore the feasibility of growing fresh vegetables, using the local materials and with necessary modifications of the nutrient solution suited to our conditions.

Techniques and methods: At the first instance, for the experimental purpose, gravel and desert sands collected from Thar desert and Thana Bulla Khan were treated with 4% formaldehyde solution and washed thoroughly with tap water for several days prior to sowing vegetable seeds. Depending upon the seasons (Rabi and Kharif) various crops e.g. tomato (cvs. Fantastic, Roma VF, T-10, Summer Giant, Bountry, Marglobe, Marmande, Money maker etc), pepper (California wonder), bean, lettuce, watermelon, muskmelon, cucumber and kakri of different varieties, groundnut, garden pea, (American wonder), cotton, bajra, cauliflower (Chin Ka Moti), potato (atom Aloe-DRM), okra, sugarcane etc. were grown in desert sand and gravel media. Proper distance between rows and plants were maintained. All these crops were grown in 4 beds of glasshouse (38 sq.m each in area) and 8 beds of open pothouse (a 11.38 sq.m each in area), filled with gravel and desert sand. Regular spray of insecticides were made on different crops against white flies, aphids, powdery mildew etc. Hoagland nutrient solutions stocked in four different tanks of 1000 gallon capacity of concentrations (ppm) of N 182, P 120, K 160, Mg 50, Ca 300, S 64, B 0.5, Mn 0.5, Cu 0.5, Zn 0.09 Mo 0.3 and Fe 5 were irrigated to the each bed. The concentration of soluble salts and pH of the solution were checked regularly. The pH of the solution was maintained between 6.5 to 7.0 using H2 SO4. Optimum levels of nutrients in the tanks were maintained by analyzing the irrigated nutrient solutions.

Crop growth conditions: The growth of all the crops was generally better in the open pot house as compared to glass house with the exception of tomato and pepper plants, which were badly affected in pot house (i.e. tomato and pepper) due to viral infections, but grew well in glass house without any viral and white flies attack. It was generally observed that desert sand was proved to be a better medium for crop growth as compared to gravel. This may be due to likely more retention of water in the desert sand than gravel. Cucumber, kakri, watermelon and muskmelon varieties available in Pakistan are not suited to glass house condition, as these crops require cross fertilization by insects and lack of cross fertilization in glass house due to close system adversely affected the pollination or flower formation and fruit setting. Groundnut is not suited at hydroponics system.

Results: It was observed from the present results that all the tomato varieties tested hydroponically thrived best in gravel beds under glasshouse conditions, producing an average of 40 tons fruit yield per hectare. Due to severe viral infection, all fields grown tomatoes were destroyed in the vicinity of Tandojam. The open bed tomatoes suffered this a lot. Pepper growth was satisfactory in glasshouse. At the later stage of growth, the attack of spider mite and powdery mildew reduced its yields, yet it produced 15.6 tons per hectare. In the open beds, lettuce grew very well in desert sand and gave an average yield of 36.5 tons per hectare. In coarse gravel, the yield was 16 tons per hectare. Snake melon (kakri), grew well in desert sand of open pot house and produced an average yield of 24.66 tons fruit per hectare, while gravel medium produced only 11.16 tons per hectare. Potato produced yield of 10.38 tons per hectare in gravel bed under glasshouse condition. Cucumber produced an average yield of 34.11 tons fruit per hectare in desert sand and 12.35 tons in gravel bed in open pot house. Cauliflower produced an average fruit yield of 17.4 tons per hectare. Crops like bajra, bean, potato and garden peas grew well in gravel as well as in desert sand. With the increasing knowledge of better production techniques and growth control in soilless culture over that of soil; the yields and quality of crops have increased considerably. The growers, however, are generally required to have more technical knowledge in order to produce the high yields.

Hydroponics use in other countries: Hydroponics workers in Sadiyat greenhouse Dubai (1970-71) grew vegetable crops and obtained yield as tons/acre/crop: cabbage (31), cucumber (102), egg plant (107), lettuce (25), okra (23), tomato (71), and turnips (70). Similarly, workers in USA (Florida State) obtained yield of these vegetables by growing in the field as tons/acre/crop: cabbage (12), cucumber (12), eggplant (8.3), lettuce (10.5), okra (5), tomato (30), and turnips (10). Yields of 200 mt/ha of tomato have been obtained in greenhouse hydroponic culture in a 9 to 10 months period depending on the plant populations. This can be calculated as 10 to 15 kg of tomato fruit/plant. Production costs for hydroponic tomatoes of high quality can range from $0.80/kg. Yields of more than 100 mt/ha of field grown tomatoes have been produced in Florida (USA) in a 4 to 5 month period. There may be areas of the world where hydroponics may be the only systems that kind be used to grow successfully food crops, which are important in human diets. The desert reasons of the world may be such places, where hydroponics has important application. The successfully commercialization of hydroponics is still and open question and it has gained popularity due to successful production of vegetables.

Advantages: (i) Crops can be grown in localities where normal cultivation is difficult or impracticable e.g. in arid area of saline or shallow soil. This opens up new regions for settlement. (ii) Nutrient solution is homogeneous, thus relatively easy to sample, test and readjust. (iii) Both nutrient solution and supporting media are contained in beds filled with gravel or sand, which can be sterilized to prevent root diseases in crops. (iv) Seepage can be stopped and surface evaporation be minimized so that less water is required for optimum yields. (v) Watering can be automatically controlled, thus reducing labour costs. (vi) Average yields are higher and cultivation is easy.

Disadvantages: (i) Initially, the construction of glasshouse and their structures are expensive. (ii) The design of equipment and operation requires a great deal of technical knowledge. (iii) Even with automatic operation of the hydroponic system a constant supervision is necessary. (iv) Some diseases are problem one and even under the uniform conditions of hydroponic gardening may spread quite rapidly. (v) Production costs for establishing and maintaining a hydroponic system are higher than for other more conventional growing techniques. Therefore, hydroponic growing has to be limited to high cash crops. It takes greater skill on the part of the grower to manage a hydroponic system and the margin of error is quite narrow. Small misjudgments in procedures can result in significant crop losses. The current systems that have been most widely used with relatively good success are the various bag culture techniques, using an organic root supporting media, such as sphagnum peat moss or an inert substrate like perlite, with nutrient solution being dripped into the bag.

There may be areas of the world, i.e. countries in Middle East, Arizona state in USA, many African countries and arid areas. Where hydroponics may be the only system that can be used to grow successfully vegetable crops, which are important in human diets. The desert regions of the world may be such places, where hydroponics has important application.

Conclusion: The research works conducted for over ten years in gravel and desert sands at Nuclear Institute of Agriculture, Tandojam, Sindh have shown that the hydroponic system using local materials is feasible under our conditions. However, a number of drawbacks such as non-availability of seeds suited to glasshouse conditions, steady electricity supply to run the electric motors, and protection from insects and diseases, pose difficulties. It has been established under the present experimental conductions, that different crops can be grown in coarse gravel and desert sands of Thar and other barren areas of the country in open and glass house beds, provided all the necessary facilities are available. In the open hydroponic system successful cultivation is possible if effective viral infection control measures become available. Hydroponics system is very profitable and valuable for growing crops in desert sand and gravel media. However, there are certain advantages and disadvantages of the system.

Source

Rs10.5 per unit tariff for agricultural tubewells

August 27, 2013

The government decided during a meeting in Islamabad on Monday to charge a uniform electricity tariff rate of Rs 10.5 per unit for tubewells used for agricultural purposes.Rs10.5 per unit tariff for agricultural tubewells
A delegation of Kissan Ittehad held a detailed meeting with Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to discuss the tariff on agricultural tubewells.
During the meeting, it was decided that the outstanding bills till June 20 would be paid in ten equal instalments and the late-fee fine would be waived.
The meeting was attended by Minister Water and Power Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Punjab Minister for Agriculture Dr Farrukh Javed, Punjab Minister for Irrigation Yawar Zaman, Chaudhary Muhammad Anwareen, Kissan Ittehad Punjab President Khalid Khokhar, Mian Mustafa Wattoo, Chaudhary Muhammad Akram and members of the National Assembly, including Chaudhary Ashraf, Iftikhar Nazeer, Rao Muhammad Ajmal, Arif Chaudhary,Rana Zahid, Muneer Azhar, Ghaffar Dogar and Nadeem Roberta.

Source

Barter trade plan stalls, Iran cancels wheat export contract

By Zafar Bhutta Published: August 27, 2013

Pakistan’s efforts to export wheat to Iran, aimed at paying outstanding bills for electricity import, have been frustrated as state-owned Trading Company of Iran has cancelled an export contract under a barter trade agreement.

According to sources, the issue came up for discussion in a meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) on August 15 in which the body was told that Iran had scrapped the contract for export of 30,000 tons of wheat.

The Trading Company of Iran told the Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Services Corporation (Passco), the two entities that had entered into the contract, about the cancellation of the deal on July 16.Barter trade plan stalls, Iran cancels wheat export contract

Earlier in an ECC meeting held on July 30, the participants proposed that keeping in view the decision taken by the previous cabinet, the committee may pave the way for export of 30,000 tons out of the approved 100,000 tons, to Iran as well as payment of cost differential estimated at $70 per ton.

The ECC asked the finance ministry to submit in the next meeting a report on the proposal for payment of cost differential by the government on account of transport charges and current international prices of wheat.

Later, the ECC was told that it was no more necessary for the finance ministry to submit the report.

According to officials, Pakistan had agreed to sell wheat to Iran at $300 per ton to cover the cost of electricity being supplied to the National Transmission and Dispatch Company (NTDC) by Iran’s Tavanir. The government was to bear the price differential on account of transport charges and current international prices of wheat, estimated at around $70 per ton, in light of the ECC decision in 2012.

The officials said the NTDC had already paid the rupee equivalent of $9 million to Passco as the cost of 30,000 tons of wheat, out of $53.21 million owed to Tavanir.

The government had been exploring the possibility of barter trade for export of one million tons of wheat to meet Tehran’s needs and ship the surplus commodity. In May this year, the cabinet approved export of 100,000 tons as the Iranians needed 30,000 tons at a rather short notice to meet their key requirements.

The Finance Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Water and Power threw their weight behind wheat export under barter trade. Wheat trade is said to be permissible in a barter arrangement with Iran and does not invite the United Nations’ sanctions.

Source

The Express Tribune