Top scientists from the Agricultural Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture are in Islamabad this week to lead the annual review of the US-Pakistan Cotton Productivity Enhancement Programme.
The primary goal of the programme is to study the cotton leaf curl virus and promote best management practices of the virus, as well as identify new sources of resistance. In Pakistan, the study of virus is crucial since the disease can cause major losses to the cotton industry both threatening economic stability and food security.
The dynamic programme is an international collaboration with a consortium of the government and university research facilities, the US department and the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the dry areas. Lead scientist Dr Brian Scheffler shared some of the groundbreaking research that has been done under the programme.
“This partnership has identified new sources of resistance in cultivated cotton which will be critical to maintaining long-term virus resistance while ensuring high levels of production. Under this programme, the scientific team is developing laboratory diagnostic tests to confirm the presence of virus and distinguish it from other viruses with similar symptoms,” he said.
Cotton Productivity Enhancement’s Program Coordinator Dr Jodi Scheffler also noted that so far thousands of small farmers in Pakistan have participated in trainings on best management practices for cotton production under this programme. “Employing practices that decrease the prevalence of the virus in the field would lengthen the time the resistant varieties remain effective,” he said.
Both scientists remarked on the success of the monitoring techniques used by Pakistani scientists to track the spread of curl virus and the excellent cooperation they observed among research institutes in Pakistan. Agriculture is second largest sector in Pakistan, accounting for over 21 percent of GDP. It remains by far the largest employer, with 46 percent of the labour force working in the sector.
For the nearly 62 percent of the population in rural areas, agriculture is a vital part of daily life. The US department supports scientists and farmers to enhance agricultural productivity in Pakistan, support economic objectives and meet food security needs. The project also received funding from the US Agency for International Development.