Agricultural Constraints and Prospects

By Dr. S.M. Alam NIA, Tandojam
August 16 - 22, 1999

Pakistan is basically an agricultural country. It is located between 24 and 37 N and 60 and 78. It has geographical area of 79.61 million hectares, which extends about 16-50 kilometers from the Arabian Sea in south to the range of Hindu Kush and the Himalaya mountains in the north.

It is a land of 5 major rivers in the Indus Plain, and has developed an irrigation system of about 62,000 kilometers long and covers the bulk of agricultural area of the country. The weather is generally very hot in the plains and moderate in the hilly areas. The country has two distinct crop seasons—summer and winter, and the crops are also distinctly divided into Rabi (winter) and Kharif (summer) crops. Agriculture is a dominant and the largest sector in the economy of Pakistan, which accounts for one-fourth of the gross domestic product (GDP), provides 60 percent of the total laborer force of the country. Agriculture sector is important to meet the food demands of growing population to provide raw materials and export earnings. Out of the total geographical area of Pakistan only 25 percent is under cultivation. The area under forest in the country is about 4.5 percent and rangeland is about 57 percent. Of the total areas only 19.5 million hectares are devoted to arable land under permanent crops. The irrigated area consists of 13.62 million hectares and the non-irrigated of about 5.87 million hectares.

Our population growth is continued unabated at 3.1 percent per annum, and if the production trends of food grains in the rest past continued, we might have to face the frightening prospect of increasing food grain deficits by the year 2000.

The constraint for yield depressants are thought to be due to (i) poor seed bed preparation (ii) late sowing (iii) poor quality of seed (iv) inadequate and ill timed irrigation (v) fertilizer (vi) weed competition (vii) insect and disease control (viii) cultural practices and (ix) harvesting losses. The economic survey 1996, puts the population estimate at 131.63 million on 1st January, 1996. If assumes a population growth rate of 2.8 percent per annum, at that rate, our population by the end of year 2000 would be 151 million. The World Bank estimates of our population in 2000 range between l31 million and 155 million.

To achieve the envisaged crop production targets, emphasis will be placed on the use of (i) high yielding varieties (ii) certified improved seeds (iii) timely application of adequate quantities of fertilizers in right proportion, (iv) integrated pest management (v) adequate quantities of water (vi) larger labourer input resulting in better tillage operations. (vii) mechanization and strictly following the crop calendar (viii) weed control (ix) improved crop husbandry practices.

Over the last 50 years, the increase in agricultural production has been achieved mainly by increasing crop yields, the agricultural area has expanded relatively little. In 1960, the global area under arable and permanent crops was about 1.4 billion ha. By 1990, this had expanded by just 3.5% to 1.48 billion. In 1960, world cereal production was about 830 million tonnes. By 1990, this had increased to 1820 million tonnes and by 1997, to 1910 million tonnes. In addition to supplying humanity directly with a majority of its dietary requirements, cereals have also filled the large increase in meat consumption by providing animal feed. Yield increases have accounted for the overwhelming majority of the production increases of the major cereals. Moreover, agricultural production has generally grown faster in the developing countries than in the developed countries, though from a much lower yield base.

Sustainable Agriculture for Crop Productivity

Sustainable agriculture is a management system that uses inputs both those available as natural resources on the farm and those purchased externally in the most efficient manner, possible to obtain productivity and profitability from a farming operation, while minimizing the adverse effects on environment. A large basal application of reactive phosphate rock, together with the other nutrients as necessary followed by a fast growing legume crop and then an appropriate rotation with nutrient replacement, will sustain production indefinitely.

Nutrient depletion in the farm land areas has brought terrible devastation in some cropping areas of a country. There is no vegetation whatsoever, despite adequate rainfall chemical fertilizers are now re-vegetating such areas. They have rapidly overtaken organic matter as a chief source of nutrients and expert opinion believes that such external nutrient source are the only way to sustain the food requirement of the population. If sustainability is to be maintained as the first priority, then other important components such as efficiency of input use, economic return and environmental protection can all be taken into use appropriately as part of the sustainability phenomenon. Towards the agriculture sustainability the population growth led to an increase in the number of settlements and more importantly to the formation of cities.

Sustainable agriculture and the sound use of fertilizers to support it, is one of the important development challenges facing countries around the world. Agriculture is also closely linked to environmental quality in a variety of ways and the challenge of our generation is how to feed a growing plant, while maintaining the integrity of our ecological life support system.

The maintenance, restoration and enhancement of soil fertility are widely acknowledged as key factors in the development of national food security and sustainable agricultural growth. Traditionally soil fertility conservation and plant nutrition practices include farm yard manure application, green manuring and incorporation in soil of crop residues to sustain crop production. But demographic pressure demanded more produce per unit of area and time to feed the growing population by using the low sustainable input factors to get high output results in crop productivity.