By Dr. S. M. Alam, NIA, Tandojam
Mar 27 - Apr 02, 2000

Agriculture is a dominant sector in the economy of Pakistan, which accounts for one-fourth of the domestic product. It absorbs nearly 52 per cent of total labour of the country. Agriculture sector is an important segment to meet the food demands of growing population to provide raw materials for the expanding industrial sectors and to employ a much larger proportion of the labour force. There is a need to enhance the agricultural productivity through the introduction of such inputs as high-yielding crop varieties, balanced fertilizer, pesticides and water for irrigation. Agricultural production in the country is still three to four times less compared with some developed countries like Japan, Holland and USA. There are multiple causes for this. About 90% of the total arid and semi-arid areas and ever growing desertfication and deterioration of productive ecosystems have posed a serious threat to its land resources of array of problems lending to their depletion, a big chunk of land is being lost to agricultural productivity through loss of fertility and land erosion and million of hectares of fertile land in the irrigated belt is rendered unproductive due to twin menace of water logging and salinity. Population pressure, gross mismanagement of inputs and the in effective policies and not making things easier. Sometimes natural disasters occurred in various forms, the chilli root rot, banana bunchy top virus attack, cotton leaf curl virus, rust epidemic in wheat and annual flood total cultivated area increased from 19.2 million in 1965 to 22.0 million ha. in 1996. Since area under cultivation cannot be increased significantly therefore, due attention has to be paid to mechanical as well as other inputs in order to meet the problems of food, fiber and shelter for the growing population of the country. To increase the food productivity of the country, there is a great need to apply proper inputs such as improved seed, balanced fertilizer, irrigation water, agricultural land, hydrological and mechanical inputs, farm machinery. Good quality seed: Seed enjoys an unique position among the various agricultural inputs. The improvements of efficiency of all the inputs is largely dependent on the quality of seed used. The improved seed played an important role to increase the agricultural production. High yielding varieties of wheat from Mexico and from IRRI tremendously increased output. Wheat production was increased from 86911 thousand metric tons (mt.) in 1875-6 to 14316 thousand metric ton (my) in 1989-90 and rice production was increased from 2617 thousand Mt to 3220 thousand Mt in the same years. Balanced fertilizer. The fertilizer use in Pakistan received an impetus with the introduction of the fertilizer responsive, the high yielding dwarf varieties of wheat and rice in the mid sixties. The effect of fertilizer on crop yields from 1974 to 1996 has shown that the use of chemical fertilizers has been diversified and continued to expand on the post green revolution years iii) Plant production: Protection of plants from pests and diseases is essential to obtain beneficial effects of fertilizers and other inputs. According to a study conducted by the IRRI between 1964 and 1979 it was concluded that rice yield could be increased by 25 times if the proper pest management practices were followed. Plant protection is an expensive input, but the returns are also very high. Plant protection measures in Pakistan currently comprise largely of the use of pesticides which has grown from 915 tons in 1981 to 3455 tons in 1985. In 1988-89, In 1988-89, total area covered by plant protection measures was 2516 thousand hectares.) Hydrological inputs. Water is a necessity for our livelihood, as every living being has been created from water (Quran 24:45) Water available to us through different sources i.e. precipitation, rivers and tube wells is 223 MAF. It is estimated that 14 million n hectares are canal commended out of 21 million hectares cultivated area of Pakistan. At present only 11.5 million hectares are under canal irrigation being fed by Tarbella, Mangla and Chashama reservoirs, the barrages, inter-river link canals and 43 main canals. The total available for 21 million hectares is 144.7 MAF. It is also estimated that wheat requires 13 inches of water per acres per year and sugarcane requires 53 inches per acres per year. The figure of available water per cultivated hectare amount to be 82.8 inches (33.5 inches / acre). Such a depth of 33.5 inches of water per acre is inadequate for growing two crops under present farmer's conditions.

Improved seed verified are mostly available to the influential farmers through their public relationing with the government sector. Small and medium farmers commanding 65 % of the total cultivated area of the country are not properly dealt with therefore the average crop yield per hectare is 2.3 to 5.7 times less than the developed countries. We do not have a well-developed scientific procedure for providing advice to the farmers on the use of fertilizers in different ecological zones. Chemical fertilizers happen to be a national agriculture and because of lack of knowledge of the farmers on the use of fertilizers effectively billions of rupees are lost annually through improper applications. Also small and medium farmers find it difficult to obtain credit for the purchase of fertilizers. The extent of crop losses in the country due to pests and diseases have never been fully surveyed. Most of the crops are not adequately protected against insect or weed infestation. Usually the farmers wait for signs of insect damage when the treatment and the preventive measure are insufficient to cope with the problems. At present, about 60 per cent of water are lost through conveyance from rivers to the farmers and to the fields. To save the losses of water there is an urgent need to repair the watercourses, construction of concrete control structures and precision land levelling but not much has been done to improve the canals.