Gwadar Needs Research on Water

By Tassadduq Rasool*, Mujahid Ali**

*Agronomy, **Horticulture; University of Agriculture Faisalabad

The port city of Gwadar has got more attention after being a part of China-CPEC program. This Sino-Pak project is expected to give unprecedented economic benefits to the region. The real estate personal skyline its future as a Dubai like city and Govt. is committed to making it a modern port city. However, despite many positive initiatives, still, it has an alarming issue and ground realities are quite different. Gwadar port city was hit by an acute water shortage this year when the main supply source “Akara Kaur Dam” dried out, that is located 25 km from Gwadar city. A team of researchers led by Shahid Naseem from the University of Karachi assessed water quality of Akara Dam and found its composition suitable for use as fresh water. However, it is influenced by calcium sulfate dissolution and might deteriorate its quality in near future. Water is a versatile resource for a human being that fulfills its domestic, agricultural and industrial needs. About 100000 local residents of Gwadar need access to this basic life facility. They are dependent on costly portable water supplied by tankers from a distance of 80 km. Gwadar, being projected a well growing port city, will have its water requirement increased in the coming days. According to Leonardo da Vinci “Water is driving force of all nature”. The government has prioritized to establish new desalinization plants under CPEC-project, to make fresh water available for the better future of this city. These plants will supply 5 million gallons of water per day at a rate of 80 cents per gallon. These plants will be inaugurated in January-2018 and people will have access to clean drinkable water. The development of the city is strongly correlated to access of basic life facilities. We need research that should prioritize the use of water according to its quality. Moreover, domestic use can be cut down by developing water conservation tools by domestic engineering. The ocean can be a good resource for an endless supply of drinkable water. The research should be based on desalinization of seawater, use of brackish groundwater and reuse of wastewater. The most prominent techniques for desalinization are thermal desalinization adopted in the Persian Gulf and pretty much common is “the reverse osmosis” everywhere in the world. Water is taken through intake pipes from the ocean, filtered from largely sized contaminants or sea living creatures and passed through pressurized reverse osmosis system, to screen salts through membranes. The only issue is that, membranes pores are choked by microbial colonization and it makes it costly to periodically clean the membranes. Recently a breakthrough in the membrane technology has been made, that utilizes the lava stone to capture microbes, before they reach the membranes. There are several other possible technologies of future like “Spin cycle” developed by Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in California; membrane screening under low hydraulic pressure, forward osmosis, and microbial fuel cell etc. Another cost-effective technology is “Biosantizer” developed by Dr. Uday S. Bhawalkar in INDIA to treat waste-water. This technique is an ecological-based and has shown sustainability for the last 12 years. Recently a group of scientists in Australia has developed a salt tolerant wheat by incorporation of gene “TmHKT1;5-A”; a big breakthrough in the food production in the salt-affected areas. Moreover, Israel is meeting 60% of its domestic water needs by desalinization of water. The research on efficient use of water in homes has cut down to halves than actual needs. They have prioritized the research on drip irrigation, water treatment and desalinization. The major driving force behind all this effort is that, Israel is in one of the driest regions and has faced the challenge of severe drought in 2008. So, turning ocean into drinking water is not out of future now. The Sorek desalinization plant in Israel is the largest facility in the world, working on reverse-osmosis principle. It supplies 1.5 million people with drinkable water. There would be seven desalinization plants working by 2020, in Los Angeles and Orange counties of USA. Another important facility is in Carlsbad desal, that is supplying 50 million gallons of water per day to San Diego, USA.  The cost estimates show that fresh drinkable water has no alternative. The cities near the ocean have limited access to fresh water, and they meet their need either from imported supply or from desalinization. According to estimates, desalinization costs might range from Rs. 209000 to Rs. 221000, per 326000 gallons of water (Costs converted from Dollars to Pak currency). There are many disasters due to water shortages. Recently in Syria, more than a million farmers made strikes in Aleppo because drought affected severely the agriculture and wells eventually dried out due to extensive pumping deeps in the water table. The efficient household water use can be a game changer as well. Israel recaptures the 86 % of the water going down into drains and utilize it for agriculture. Another most efficient country is Spain that has the capability to capture almost 18% for utilization. The modern world has developed the efficient toilet and shower systems, and innovative treatment systems that make them reusable. Water conservation has become essential even in areas of abundant water supply. Overall, I can say, it’s not easy to make all waters drinkable especially from the sea that contains salts within a range of 30000-40000 ppm as compared to freshwater 1000 ppm. Still, there are a lot of option and a hope. The desalinization era has been started by Israel.

The issues of in situ conservation of crop genetic resources

Domesticated plants have been fundamentally altered from their wild relatives; these species have been moved into and adapted to new environments; they have become dependent on the tiller’s hand; and they have been reshaped to meet human needs and wants. Modern crops are the result of thousands of years of these evolutionary processes. Like all biologicalnevolution, crop evolution involves two fundamental processes: the creation of diversity and selection (Harris and Hillman 1989). Crop evolution is distinguished by two types of selection: one natural and another artificial or conscious. These evolutionary processes must continue in order for agriculture, a living and evolving system, to remain viable. Therefore, an essential criterion of crop evolution is the availability of genetic diversity. Crop evolution has been altered by our enhanced ability to produce, locate, and access genetic material, but this has not changed its fundamental nature.

Both farmers and scientists have relied on the store of genetic diversity present in crop plants that has been accumulated by hundreds of generations who have observed, selected, multiplied, traded, and kept variants of crop plants. The result is a legacy of genetic resources that, today, feeds billions of humans.

Genetic diversity is important both to individual farmers and farming communities and to agriculture in general. Individual farmers value diversity within and between their crops because of heterogeneous soils and production conditions, risk factors, market demand, consumption, and uses of different products from an individual crop species (Bellon 1996). Thus a wheat farmer in Turkey may have different types of wheat for hillside or valley bottom areas, for irrigated and rain-fed parcels, for homemade bread and for urban grain markets, for straw and animal feed (Brush and Meng 1998). Moreover, farmers usually rely on diversity of other farms and communities to provide new seed when crops fail or seed is lost or to renew seed that no longer meets the farmer’s criteria for good seed (Louette et al. 1997). The need for diversity at both the farm and regional levels has resulted in a vast store of genetic diversity in crops, a store passed down from earlier generations and maintained for the future. In regions where a crop’s evolution has the longest record, where the crop was originally domesticated, and where its diversity is greatest, the local store of genetic diversity in farming communities is also a store of genetic resources for that crop, an invaluable resource for farmers, scientists, and consumers elsewhere (Hawkes 1983).

Unfortunately, this legacy is imperiled by the very conditions it helped to create (Wilkes 1995). Record numbers of humans, agricultural science and technology, and economic integration of the world’s many diverse cultures threaten to destroy this legacy, as modern crop varieties and commercial farming diffuse into every agricultural system. A result of these changes is that diversity on individual farms and across wide regions is threatened by modern crop varieties that have been bred for broad adaptation, resistance to disease and other risk factors, ability to better use water and fertilizer, and higher yields. This threat is evidenced by the fact that agricultural development in Europe, North America, and many less developed countries has been accompanied by the replacement of diverse, local populations of crops with a handful of modern varieties.

The importance of crop genetic resources and threats to them has led to the creation of conservation programs to preserve crop resources for future generations. One type of crop genetic conservation is ex situ — maintenance of genetic resources in gene banks, botanical gardens, and agricultural research stations (Plucknett et al. 1987). Another type is in situ —maintenance of genetic resources on-farm or in natural habitats (Brush 1991; Maxtel et al. 1997a). In actuality, two types of in situ conservation can be distinguished. First, in situ conservation refers to the persistence of genetic resources in their natural habitats, including areas where everyday practices of farmers maintain genetic diversity on their farms. This type is a historic phenomenon, but it is now especially visible in regions where farmers maintain local, diverse crop varieties (landraces), even though modern, broadly adapted, or higher yielding varieties are available.

Second, in situ conservation refers to specific projects and programs to support and promote the maintenance of crop diversity, sponsored by national governments, international programs, and private organizations. In situ conservation programs may draw on the existence and experience of the first type, but they are designed to influence farmers in the direction of maintaining local crops by employing techniques that may not be local. This type of conservation faces daunting tasks. It must cope with continual social, technological, and biological change while preserving the critical elements of crop evolution — genetic diversity, farmer knowledge and selection, and exchange of crop varieties.

In situ conservation practices and projects in agriculture theoretically can concern the wide spectrum of genetic resources relating to crops, from wild and weedy relatives of crop species to the infraspecific diversity within crop species (Maxted et al. 1997b). The exemplified by heterogeneous crop populations known as landraces. These are named, farmer varieties that usually have a reduced geographic range, are often diverse within particular types, and are adapted to local conditions (Brush1995; Harlan 1995). One reason for our focus on diversity within cultivated crops is that science of in situ conservation of cultivated resources is relatively less developed than the science of conserving wild resources such as wild and weedy crop relatives. Another reason is that in situ conservation of cultivated plants requires novel approaches, while in situ conservation of wild crop relatives can draw on theories and methods developed for conserving many different species in their natural habitats. Finally, focusing on variation within cultivated species is warranted by the fact that this type of diversity is arguably the most important one for the future viability of agricultural evolution, as it has been in the past.

The successful planning and implementation of projects for on-farm (in situ) conservation of crop genetic resources require us to answer four questions.

First, why undertake this type of conservation, especially when investments are made for ex situ conservation? Second, what scope is necessary or appropriate for in situ conservation of crop germplasm? Third, how can agricultural agencies and organizations promote this form of conservation? Finally, what legal and institutional questions pertain to on-farm conservation of genetic resources? The answers to these questions come from different fields of science, for example, population biology and social science, and from law and politics. Moreover, the answers to these questions seldom are definitive. More important than definitive answers is the ability to seek answers, because new answers will be needed for different times, conditions, crops, and societies.

The purpose of this and other chapters in this book is not to answer these four questions but rather to offer guideposts and a context for finding answers in specific regions and for specific crops and cropping systems.

Why in situ conservation?

The invention and development of agriculture was accomplished independently in several places in the world, but within a relatively narrow time period following the end of the Pleistocene period — 8,000 to 10,000 years before the present (Harris and Hillman 1989). Why agriculture arose during this limited time period and only in a few places, and exactly how wild plants were identified, manipulated, and managed for domestication remain mysteries. Although the origins and processes of crop domestication are obscure, its consequences are well known and thoroughly documented the creation of an entirely new way of life and eventual rise of urban civilization with all of its wonders and woes. Since the time of domestication, a progression of changes has occurred in farming systems and social systems associated with agriculture. Greater numbers of people than ever before in human history are dependent on a smaller number of crop species; a handful of “mega-crops” have supplanted locally important crops and now feed most of the world’s population (Wilkes 1995). The reduction in interspecies diversity of food plants continues the trend of exercising ever greater control over nature and the production process, a trend also supported by the increased use of manufactured inputs in crop production.

Individual social and production systems have been gradually but inexorably integrated into a single, interconnected world system of economic, cultural, and technology exchange, and this integration threatens genetic diversity of crops as much as population increase and modern technology.

Until recently, most crop production was intended for local consumption, and it relied mostly on local resources of energy and crop germplasm. Today, however, exceedingly few farming systems function in isolation from  markets, national and international political influence, and flows of capital, energy, and technology. Although most farmers still produce their own food, they also sell an appreciable amount into local and national markets. The use of non-local technology and inputs, such as fertilizers, pesticides, and mechanization, is ubiquitous. An increasingly important part of the flow of technological goods to farmers is improved crop varieties, selected from outstanding farmer varieties, developed and released by public crop improvement programs, or sold by private seed companies.

The economic, political, and technological integration of farming systems is generally seen as a positive step that enables development — increased production, income, and well-being (Hayami and Ruttan 1985). Nevertheless, this integration has several negative impacts. Farmers relinquish personal and local control of the production system as they become subject to market and political systems that are not always stable or positive for particular locations or commodities (Chambers 1983; Cernea 1985). Communities and farming systems may become more stratified economically. Increasingly uniform crops may be more vulnerable to pests and diseases. Local knowledge and crop diversity may be lost because of the diffusion of improved, exotic technology.

These negative impacts may be ameliorated by policy and technological means, although the knowledge and ability to manage the negative impacts of change are often underdeveloped. Nevertheless, it is important to note that lack of socioeconomic integration also carries potentially serious negative impacts, especially given population growth.

Cultivar diversity in association with wild or ancestral crop species is linked to crop domestication and, most importantly, a broad base of genetic resources that may be useful for crop improvement. The loss of crop varieties from centers of diversity causes genetic erosion or a loss of genetic resources — a negative consequence of agricultural development. Natural historians and biologists have long recognized that particular areas harbored unusually  diverse and rich stores of crop germplasm (Harris 1989). One contribution of N. I. Vavilov (1926) was to perceive that these stores were important resources for crop improvement. Shortly after Vavilov’s observation, it was noted that these concentrations of crop germplasm were vulnerable to loss, as technological and economic change occur (Harlan and Martini 1936). Once the stores of crop germplasm were identified, a worldwide effort was initiated, first to sample and then to conserve the genetic diversity of major food staples (e.g., rice, wheat, maize, potato, cassava, sorghum, millet, barley, common bean, soybean). The conservation effort focused on preserving crop germplasm that is held in the thousands of distinct crop varieties or cultivars. By 1980, a large portion of the estimated diversity of major staples had been collected for preservation in ex situ facilities — gene banks, botanical gardens, and working collections of crop scientists. During the establishment of the current gene conservation effort (1970-1980), in situ conservation was perceived as a possible alternative strategy for conserving crop germplasm, yet it was dismissed for several reasons (Frankel 1970). Most importantly, it was assumed that progress in achieving economic development in diverse agricultural systems inevitably requires the replacement of local crop populations with improved ones.

Because genetic diversity in crops is associated with traditional agricultural practices, it is also linked to underdevelopment, low production, and poverty.

The positive relationship between crop diversity and poverty is seemingly confirmed by the fact that agricultural development in many places and at different times occurred with the replacement of local and diverse crops, for example, in the hybrid maize revolution in U.S. agriculture between 1920 and 1950 (Cochrane 1993). A corollary of the relationship between diversity and poverty is that conserving traditional crops and their genetic diversity on-farm is tantamount to trying to stop agricultural development. Another reason for rejecting in situ conservation is the assumption that farmers who grow traditional crop varieties would require a direct monetary subsidy to continue this practice once improved varieties become available. Such subsidies are not only expensive but also unreliable and difficult to manage for any length of time. Finally, crop scientists who promoted conservation were not interested in conservation alone but also in using genetic resources for crop improvement. As long as breeders’ work is confined to experiment stations and laboratories, genetic resources that remain in farmers’ fields are not directly useful for crop improvement. Several decades of collection and gene bank storage of crop genetic resources and research on agricultural change under modern conditions have changed the views that led to the dismissal of in situ conservation in favor of ex situ methods (Maxted et al. 1997a). One important shift in attitudes is the view that in situ and ex situ methods are no longer perceived as exclusive alternatives to each other. Today, they are seen as complementary approaches rather than as rivals. There is recognition that these methods address different aspects of genetic resources, and neither alone is sufficient to conserve the total range of genetic resources that exist.

 

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.

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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.

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