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Increasing farm productivity

Sugarcane technology adoption and yield response of crop in Thatta District of Sindh

By Dr. Iqbal A. Panhwar
Director General, University Grants Commission
Sep 11 - 17, 2000

Pakistan bestowed with a very rich land resources base is predominantly an agricultural country. Its geographical area is 79.61 million hectors, out of which 20.73 million hectors are being cultivated presently.

Another 9.26 million hectors have been surveyed and classified as culturable waste, which can be brought under plow by ensuring irrigation, availability of fertilizer, insecticides and credit facilities. The importance of agriculture in our national economy can be judged from the fact that more than 51 per cent of our civilian labour force is directly or indirectly engaged in this sector. Although on account of development of non-agricultural sectors, the share of agriculture in our gross national product has declined considerably, yet even at present this sector alone contributes to about 34 per cent to our gross national product and thus is emerged as the largest single contributor in gross national product. Export of raw materials produced on farms fetch nearly 50 per cent of our foreign exchange earnings. Pakistan manufactures monthly comprise agro-based products, notably textiles and sugar. Since agriculture is a backbone of our economy, it can be safely remarked that economic development of Pakistan is fundamentally a function of agriculture development.

The programme of increasing farm productivity in Pakistan, like other developing countries, faces multifarious problems like illiteracy of farming community, lack of capital accumulation, farm investment and lack of new technology.

Among cash crops sugarcane is one of the most cash crop of Pakistan. Records show that sugarcane was being cultivated here even during the 16th century. However this crop was not a major crop and before the advent of Sukkur barrage in 1932, an area of 13110 acres was being grown in Sindh. The area was mainly concentrated in Sukkur, Hyderabad and Karachi, due to better and assured irrational facilities. In Sindh there were no indigenous species of cane but was mostly of chewing type, the great bulk of which was used for chewing purposes and only a small fraction was converted into some what inferior type of gur. The varieties that commonly grown were:

(i)   Lahori Pondia
(ii) Sukkur white and
(iii) Hyderabad Waxy Red

All these are thick canes and pure officiniarums. The first two are of white colour with difference in name being due to the places of their collection. The Hyderabad waxy red is some Mauritius cane and because of presence of bloom the name waxy red is given. It is still grown in some parts in Thatta district.

The first introduction of improved coimbatore strains was done in 1928. The seed of Co-213 was obtained from Shahjanpur (U.P. India) was tried at Sakrand. This variety was found to grow very vigorously and stand a wide range of conditions.

In 1932, thirty two more varieties of sugarcane mostly coimbatore canes were brought in. The coimbatore canes were of 200 and 300 hundred series. From these 32 varieties Co-270 was selected for cultivation.

In 1932, the Sukkur barrage was formerly opened and with its opening the colonization of the Sukkur barrage lands started. In the cropping pattern of the Sukkur barrage sugarcane was not included. The main cash crop was kept cotton. But in the colonization of the barrage land many settlers came from the province of Punjab. At that time Co-312 was the main improved variety of sugarcane in Punjab, so the settlers brought this strain from Punjab and grew it on their lands. It is thus that this variety got spread in this region and had not got much yield potential.

At that time sugarcane was considered to be an important crop and its know-how was very little known by the local people. Sindh used to import the bulk of its requirements of gur from U.P. India, Peshawar and Punjab. It is a recorded fact that in 1936 in Nawabshah district a Zamindar of Sinjhoro Mr. Satram Das Raliram made some gur which he could not dispose of even in 1938 due to its being of inferior quality. For such reasons the department of Agriculture launched a gur making demonstration scheme in 1939. Gur experts were procured from Billari (U.P. India) and were sent on tour to the important cane growing centers for teaching gur making.

Pakistan grows about 0.8 million hectors under sugar cane and as such ranks itself as the fourth position among cane growing countries of the world. By the end of sixth decade, Pakistan devoted averagely 842.00 thousand hectors (Five year plan 1983-88) thousand hectors annually to sugarcane cultivation and harvested 33.03 million tonnes of cane annually. But this huge production of cane prove insufficiency to meet the sugar requirements of ever increasing population of Pakistan. Pakistan produced 1313 thousand tonnes of sugar during 1984-85, after crushing 14.64 million tonnes of cane of 45-56 per cent of total sugarcane production. The production of coarse sugar including beat sugar was to the tune of 1266 thousand tonnes during 1984-85 and thus 2579 thousand tonnes of sugar was available for domestic consumption. Thus, the per capita availability of sugar in Pakistan was estimated to be 32.2 kilograms annually of all sorts of sugar. These figures of sugar supply lack behind the demand situation. Consequently, Pakistan has been endeavoring very hard to achieve self sufficiency in sugar production which has been vital food items of domestic population. To achieve the desired ends Pakistan has been developing its sugar industry on the one hand and on the other hand it is trying to enhance cane production to its optimum level.

Since role of variety is recognized as the most important single factor for boosting up cane production, efforts are directed towards the introduction and selections of improved cane varieties. In the year 1930, the first Coimbatore cane variety Co-213 was introduced in cane growing areas of Indo-Pak Subcontinent which rapidly spread over to occupy most of the areas under sugarcane. But this variety proved highly susceptible to borers and lodging. Therefore, the famous variety Co-547 introduced because of its late maturity and containing low sucrose percentage was discarded. This state of affairs compelled the sugarcane experts to evolve a variety which can grow well in Pakistan conditions and can turn out good recovery percentage. Therefore the discovery of PR-1000 and BL-4 proved as the wonder cane for Pakistan. These varieties with broad leaves, fertilizer responsive and vigor growing habits have gained remarkable popularity among cane growers in Pakistan.

Though, cane production has increased tremendously due to the introduction off PAR-1000 and BL-4, yet average per hector yield of cane is too low in Pakistan as compared to other cane growing countries of the world.

Sindh Province is now considered as one of the major sugarcane producing areas of Pakistan. The crop has assumed a key position in the cropping pattern followed by progressive farmers of Hyderabad, Tharparkar, Sanghar, Nawabshah and Thatta districts of Sindh. If the figures of acreage and production of sugarcane in Sindh for the year 1989-90 are compared with the figures of the year 1950-51, the increase in acreage come to 2451 per cent whereas the sugarcane production in Sindh has increased by 2957 per cent. Prior to establishment of sugar mills, sugarcane was produced on a very limited scale. It received encouragement with the establishment of sugar mills at Tando Mohamad Khan in 1962 followed by other sugar mills at Mirpurkhas, Tando Allahyar, Talhar, Nawabshah, Khoski and Shahpur Jahania. Now the cultivation of sugarcane has gained a popularity in the surroundings of sugar mills.

The increase in acreage of sugarcane has also resulted to some extent due to decrease in acreage under other crops specially in the areas where all crops have equal chances to grow well. It is observed that farmers attracted by handsome returns from sugarcane crops are prone to produce area under cotton cultivation. In such a situation when extensive cultivation of sugarcane is not possible, the introduction of its intensive cultivation by adopting modern technologies is the only solution for increasing sugarcane production without foregoing cultivation of other crops.

Recommendations: The following recommendations are suggested for increasing the output of sugarcane.

Land Preparation: Proper land preparation is must to obtain better yields for which deep ploughing is essential. Presently the use of implements for preparatory tillage operation is non inversion. Indigenous plough which only cuts the soil, but do not pulverise, it is mostly used. The use of disc-plow followed by 3-4 ploughing are sufficient for preparation of fine seed bed.

Pure Seed: A healthy crop can be raised by healthy seed, free from diseases and cane set/seed must be treated with chemicals like Aratan, Agalol, Benlate etc., before plantation. This will prevent the attack of promotes maximum germination resulting good plant population for better yield.

Time of sowing: Spring plantation is usually done from 15th February to 30th March. This is the most appropriate time for sowing. Autumn plantation is usually done from 15th September to 30th October, because atmospheric temperature during these seasons are most suitable for proper germination.

Method of sowing: healthy seed sets with 2 to 3 eye buds are to be laid in a furrow end to end covered with 2 to 3 inches of soil pressed by fort furrows should be 3-feet apart. Seed rate should be 80 to 100 Mds per acre, when germination complete. Gaps it may be filled by planting fresh sets to get good crop.

Fertilizer: It is essential that only properly balanced doses of Nitrogen, Phosphoras and Potassium be used for good result. All the inputs must be applied within the first four to five months period in order to give the desired boost during growth period of the crop. Fertilizer requirement are different for different varieties under different soil, climatic conditions and irrigation facilities. It is therefore suggested that soil samples may be tested for proper use of fertilizer. Green manure by leguminous crop with soil conditions and cane yield to considerable extent.

At sowing time 2 bag of Potash, one & half bag of DAP are to be used, after one month of germination first dose of one bag of Urea is to be given followed by irrigation. Second dose is applied one month later, third and final dose by 30th June positively.

Weed control: Weeds are harmful for the cane crop. These affect directly on yield and help infestation of pest and disease resulting in loss. Weed thrives at the cost of cane plant and have equal share in nutrients. Water, Space and Sun light affect the normal growth of cane plant. The field are to be kept free of weeds by hoeing ploughing.

Pest and diseases: Insect and Pest reduced the yield and quality of cane. The majour pest of cane are various. Borers and wild borers, among disease Mosaic is prevalent in the country. Whipsmut and Redrot is also available as fungal disease. The timely Plant Protection coverage should be provided to avoid damages of pest and disease. Both chemical and biological control measures are essential.

Irrigation: Sugarcane require abundant water about 90 acres inches annually, because of long growing season for its optimum growth and maturity. In order to manage the water requirement of the crop in a better way it is recommended that for 2 months of crop, there should be irrigation interval of 8 to 10 days. For next 6 months 10 to 15 days and for last 4 months the interval is 15 to 20 days for better yield.