Agriculture contributes, cereals, fruits, vegetables, flowers, and many other basic necessities of life. For the countries like Pakistan it is proven backbone of the economy. It provides raw material for many industries. According to an estimate, agro-based industry contributes 64% of the total industrial production of Pakistan, accounts 21% of Pakistan’s national income (GDP), nearly 9% of the country’s export earnings
Agriculture contributes, cereals, fruits, vegetables, flowers, and many other basic necessities of life. For the countries like Pakistan it is proven backbone of the economy. It provides raw material for many industries. According to an estimate, agro-based industry contributes 64% of the total industrial production of Pakistan, accounts 21% of Pakistan’s national income (GDP), nearly 9% of the country’s export earnings. So in all cases, no body can deny the importance of this feeding mother. But the present scenario of agriculture in Pakistan is not satisfactory. We have two main cash crops, Wheat and Cotton. In wheat, yet we are not able to meet our own requirements, In cotton, We have not a single disease resistant variety. Country’s other main crops are rice, maize, sugarcane, potato, etc. But in every crop, we are not much expert to export it on high level. Being an agricultural country, it is quite painful to import many basic agricultural commodities, like onion, garlic, wheat, meat, and many others.
At the moment, country imports 69.7% edible oil to meet its requirements. Recent sugar crisis is an eye opener. But an illiterate farmer has no remedy against it. It is amazing; Pakistan’s sugarcane cultivating area is more than India’s. We were at the fourth number in the world regarding to production area, but we have less production as compared to India. One of the reasons is less sugar contents (sucrose) in our sugarcane.
How we can cover all these problems? The simple answer is “research”. At present, many agricultural research institute are working in different areas of Pakistan. Ayub Agricultural Research Institute (AARI) Faisalabad, National institute of Biology and Genetic Engineering (NIBGE) Faisalabad, National Agriculture Research Council (NARC) Islamabad, and Nuclear Institute of Agriculture and Biology (NIAB) Faisalabad. Along with these big wigs many small and specialized institute are working. These institutes include; Cotton Research Institute Multan, Rice Research Institute Kala Shah Kaku, Mango Research Institute Shujaa Abad, Jujuba in Bahawalpur, Citrus Research Institute in Sargodha, and other miscellaneous institutes in Sahiwal, Chakwal, Pindi Bhatian, Yousaf Wala, and other cities. Besides the agricultural institutes, hundreds of research are working at different agricultural universities, particularly at University of Agriculture Faisal Abad. It is not out of place to mention that thousands of agriculture and plant protection officers are working in every nook and corner of the country.
But why we are legging behind? Why we have not target the bull’s eye? When we will achieve the status of self sufficiency? In 1960, we had one new variety of wheat that was MaxiPak and till now we have more than 40 new varieties. But every variety has its own peculiar problems. As Watan is high yielding but with shattering problem. We must have a successful variety to meet our food requirements. By research we have evolved some new and working varieties as Inqlab-91, AS-2002, BK-2002, Ufak-2002, but still the goal is far ahead. One thing should be in mind that evolving new verities compatible to our environment is the basic purpose of research in agriculture. We must have a high yielding, better nutritioned, enriched basic contents, verities in cereals, oil seed and sugar crops.
Secondly research should be done in the field of soil sciences. As most of our soil has high Ph but low in organic matter, so such soil needs more fertilizers. Research should introduce new types of fertilizers. As concept of foliar sprays is gaining strength. By repeated trials, we have come to know that by conventional methods most of the Urea volatize and many nutritive contents leach down. But by foliar plants can receive more nourishment as compared as compared to traditional way. According to an old data by FAO, in developing countries 40 to 60% yield increased by using fertilizers. It is true, but it is a data comparable to a situation with no fertilizer are used. Now at the moment, most of the farmers are aware of using fertilizers. Their yield may enhance due to efficient use of fertilizer, with proper dose, and timely application. But still research is needed in particular fields. We should evolve particular types of fertilizers with reference to particular crop. As use of Boran showed good results in cotton. Idea of using Micro-Nutrients in cheleated form is also gaining popularity.
Thirdly, research in agriculture introduce farmers with new farm equipments like harvester, threshers, sowing drills, bar harrows, rota vaters, cultivators, etc. This mechanization has also played a role, but still there is need to make improvements in mechanization of agricultural equipments. Farmers should be provided with low rate farm equipments on easy installments.
Fourthly the biggest horizon on which research may play a great role i.e. plan protection measures. Somehow we have started integrated pest management (IPM) techniques, but still we are far behind. Our farmers are facing the attacks of insects and pests regularly. Few years back, cotton leaf curl virus (CLCV) damaged almost whole cotton crop. At the time there was no remedy. But after that, introduction of BT cotton contributed a little bit, But still there is no complete resistant verity. Pesticides are heavily sprayed on cotton crops. Regular use of pesticides created resistance in pests, so they need more poison. Provision of alternate host such as Okra and some fodder crops increased the chances of more damage crops besides cotton. Now a days by research, we have evolved few compatible varieties of cotton those are working well, NIAB-98, NIAB-111, CIM-506, 473, 496, BT-121, VH-160. One of the biggest problems in agriculture industry is provision of disease free and pure seed. Few days back, a seed mafia has been arrested with a view to mixing lower quality in better seeds. Along with new research, there should be complete check on such activities.
Fifthly we need a lot of research on post harvest handling. We damage on an average 30% of our crops by post harvest losses. So such verities should be evolved those have minimum losses and techniques should be introduces to avoid such avoidable losses.
Finally, what could be done to improve and implement all these research activities, because there is not only a single field of research, we need to do a lot in every field, in cereals, oil seed crops, horticultural crops besides basic input research in fertilizers, pesticides and farm mechanization. Can a farmer with a few acre holding can afford farm mechanization and improved inputs? It should be started from agricultural education and awareness. As most of the village population is illiterate, they do farming by traditional methods. In this machine age Pakistani farmers are still yoked with pair of oxen. Who can break this bondage of misery? Definitely government should do something. Some reliable resources from Indian Punjab told that they are being supplied with basic inputs like seeds, fertilizers, and free electricity at farm level. But there is no such thing prevails in our country. Farmers are forced to live hand to mouth. They have to buy pesticide instead of buying a cough syrup or pain killer for their own. Having the dreams of prosperity they are still working day and night. The education and awareness can only be created by media. Alas! In this electronic age there is no single paper or media network working for the cause of farmers. Programs regarding every crop before the sowing, cultivating, harvesting should be managed to show to every farmer. Few programs prevailed in some channels, but those are not compatible with farmers’ timings. Newspapers are not understood. Agricultural officers should involve in such type of activity. They have to manage video aided programs in different villages and areas in farmer’s meeting.
- Traditional farmer meetings should be replace with video aided programs.
- Agri-student teams should work as a campaign against traditional method of farming. Every year at particular crop seasons, teams of students with video aids should be sent to particular crop area to create awareness among illiterate farmers.
- Grant should be given to agri-scientists at individual level for doing extra ordinary work in field of research.
- Research should be allotted with agricultural land to design new experiments.
- Famer-Reseachers Collaborations should be strengthened, there should be closed contact between the two.
- Institute should be funded on the basis of performance
- Agri-Scientist should be promoted to do farm business, so more and agri-graduate can come in agricultural industry.
- Research with specified input to specific crop should be encouraged to achieve high yield.
Ultimately, one thing should be in mind, without research in agriculture we can not overcome our all difficulties. The research conducted should be disseminated to farm level, the research that is in the mind of researcher should be practiced as soon as possible. It is the way that will ultimately lead us to the goal of self sufficiency.
By Muhammad Ramzan Rafique