A major challenge during the coming decade is to develop cost effective technology transfer methods

Dr. S.M. ALAM, M.H. NAQVI and 
M A. KHAN, NIA, Tandojam.

Mar 31 - Apr 06, 2003

Rice is a grass (Gramineae) and belongs to the genus Oryza (meaning oriental). Oryza sativa is grown in a wide range of environments from the equatorial tropics to subtropical mid-latitudes from lowland paddy fields to high altitudes terraces, and from swamps to upland rice fields.

Rice is a staple food for over 60 per cent of the world's population. It is the second only to wheat in terms of annual production. According to FAO report, the production of rice has been 584 million tons for the year 2003. In the coming 30 years, the world will require 70 per cent more rice than that it requires today. According to a conservative estimates about 800 million tons of rice will have to be grown with considerable reduction in the input of agro-chemical under sustainable conditions. Rice is the second most important food staple of Pakistan and is a major foreign exchange earning commodity after cotton. The country is the third largest exporter in the world, and enjoys a monopoly in the export of the world famous fine aromatic Basmati variety. Rice, therefore occupies a very vantage position in the national economy.

During 2000-2001, Pakistan exported 2.95 million tons of all types rice and earned about 30.85 million rupees in foreign exchange. Pakistan is among the four major rice exporting countries of the world, but producing nearly 5.0 million tons compared to Bangladesh (34.3); Myanmar (20.6); India (131.9); Japan (11.3); Philippines (12.7); Thailand (25.6); Vietnam (31.9); China (181.5) and world (581 million tons). Demand for rice, the largest staple food is increasing with the increasing population of the world. It is expected that consumption of rice will increase from 560 million tons in 1995 to 786 million tons by 2025 for meeting the requirements of the population explosion. It is a very common food of the people of Asian countries. At present, rice is the staple food for more people than wheat 2.7 billion people, almost half the world population and 90 per cent of total rice production is grown and consumed in Asia.

In the last three decades, area under rice has more than doubled and the total production has increased almost five times. The high yield potential of short-statured, fertilizer-responsive varieties induced farmers to grow the crop under relatively high input technology and as a result, the yield have also gone up by 100 per cent over the last four decades. With its suitability to grow successfully under saline and water logged conditions, rice has become an important component in the cropping systems of such problem areas. Although, the use of improved production technology and scientific measures by the farmers lands resulted in substantial increase in productivity, the national average yield of rice is still amongst the lowest as compared to other advanced countries. One must realize that with input costs constantly rising the productivity level of rice, or for that matter of any other crop, will have to be further increased sufficiently to make crop production economically sustainable and keep agriculture alive as a competitive profession.

Traditionally, rice cultivation in Pakistan has been concentrated in the central Punjab and north- western districts of Sindh, where both surface and sub-soil irrigation systems were well-developed. It occupies about 11 per cent of the total cropped area in Pakistan and contributes about 17 per cent of food grain production. It is the country's third largest crop covering an area of about 2.4 million hectares with annual production of 5.0 million tons, annually. About 90 per cent of Pakistan's rice area is concentrated mainly in the provinces of the Punjab and Sindh. Inspite of its natural resources, the everincreasing pressure of population has given rise to the need to increase production to feed extra mouths. Due to shortage of water, production of rice is declining.

In fact, Pakistan has the highest rate of adoption of high-yielding varieties and improved production technology amongst the south-east Asian countries covered by the Green Revolution. The introduction of new high-yielding varieties pushed the national average yield from 877 kg/ha in 1949-50 to 2315 in 2000-2001. The increased production of rice gave a big boost to the country's economy. It not only substantially enhanced the per capita income of the rice farmer, but also added new dimensions to the agriculture oriented export trade. With rice exports almost non-existent in early sixties there have now risen to 1.3 million tons (1983) to 2.95 million tons in 2001, contributing substantially to the country's foreign exchange earnings.

With the technological innovations already available and those that are on the horizon, rice is expected to remain a dominant crop on the agricultural scene of Pakistan and would require continuous strong support from the research and development agencies in the country. The high yield potential demonstrated by the new rice varieties stimulated a number of research and initiatives with a purpose to evolve and disseminate package of improved production technology to the farmers. Realizing that increased production of rice would not only satisfy the fast-escalating domestic needs, but also would enable the country to capitalize on the potential export markets internationally, the Government brought about adequate strengthening of the relevant institutions and implemented policies to provide maximum incentives to the rice growers.

In Pakistan, rice is cultivated as a Kharif crop. Its transplanting coincides with the onset of monsoon rains, which meet the major portion of its water requirements. The weather is usually clear with immense solar radiation during the reproductive and ripening periods, which is very much conducive for good yield. Pakistan has been endowed by nature with vast potentialities for growing rice on large- scale, the relatively levelled terrain, heavy soils with good water holding capacity, good sunny days, congenial climatic conditions and abundant supply of farm labour. But, scarcity of irrigation water and soil salinity and groundwater are the major limiting factors. Rice is grown under diverse soil and climatic conditions in the country.

There is very little opportunity to increase the area planted to rice and further crop intensification is contained by limited supplies of water. Therefore, the increase in supply must mainly be met by increasing crop yields through better crop-nutrient-pest and water management and the use of germplasm with a higher yield potential. This actually needs much greater farmer knowledge. A major challenge during the coming decade is to develop cost effective technology transfer methods to increase the ability of farmers to manage the resources at their disposal more efficiently and accurately.