AGRICULTURAL TECHNOLOGY FOR CROP GROWTH

 

By Dr. S.M. ALAM & Dr. M.H. NAQVI
NIA, Tandojam

July  21 - 27 , 2003 

Pakistan is faced with a high rate of population growth. Over a period of time, the result has been too much pressure on its limited resources of land and water. The introduction of Green Revolution Technologies in the sixties, however, brought revolutionary changes in the modes of agricultural production. Given limitation of surface water, underground water (tubewells) were relied upon to augment water supplies. Organic fertilizers gave way to chemical fertilizers. Chemical pesticides were used for safe agriculture. Not only these changes contributed to ensuring overall food security in the country, also they set the agriculture sector on a path to development.

Agriculture is a dominant sector in the economy of Pakistan, which accounts for one-fourth of the gross domestic product. It absorbs over 50 per cent of total labour force of the country. Agriculture sector is important to meet the food demands growing population, to provide raw materials for the sustenance of the manufacturing sector and food for the growing population engaged in the economic pursuits. The agriculture has been able to play a stimulative role in the overall economic growth of the country. Research shows that the growth of agriculture sector has been very effective in reducing the poverty in both rural and urban areas of the country. There is a reinforcing relationship that generally exists between hydrological, biological, chemical and mechanical inputs.

Agricultural production in Pakistan is still three to four times less compared with some developed countries like Netherlands, USA, Australia and Japan. The total cultivated area increased from 19.2 million hectares in 1965 to 21.5 million hectares in the current year. Since area under cultivation can not be increased significantly therefore due attention has been paid to the several agriculture inputs in order to meet the problems of food, fibre and shelter for the growing population. Most amicable and substantial efforts made to raise agricultural production in Pakistan have been concentrated on physical inputs, economic environment, research and education organization.

PHYSICAL INPUTS: The main factors which directly contributed to larger increase in production from land mainly comprise of fertilizer, improved seed, plant protection and water.

FERTILIZER: The fertilizer use in Pakistan received an impetus with the introduction of the fertilizer responsive, the high yielding varieties of wheat, rice in mid-sixties, expansion in cultivated area especially of wheat, increase in irrigation water supplies and public sector support in terms of credit, subsidies, etc. The growth in fertilizer use in Pakistan is one of the most important success stories in the field of agriculture. The single most important input played pivotal and vantage role in boosting the yield and production of all types of crops and helped in achieving the almost desired goals of increase in grain production of not only food crops but also of cash crops of the country. Such increase in crop productivity is also possible by the use of balanced doses of appropriate fertilizer. The ratio is 3:1 against requirement of 2.1 for obtaining optimum yield. It has been observed that the consumption of fertilizer in the country is at the rate of 114 kg per hectare compares unfavourably with 599 kg in Netherlands, 467 kg in Germany, 431 kg in Japan, 405 kg in Egypt, 309 kg in France and 220 kg in Italy.

This minimum rate of fertilizer i.e. 114 kg per hectare has caused the lowest yield of crops compared to other countries of the world. The production of wheat in kg/hec. in the world is 2520, France 6390 and Pakistan 1760. Rice yield in the world is 3571, Egypt 7659 and Pakistan 2369. Maize yield in the world is 3980, Romania 8487 and in Pakistan 1357. Seed cotton yield in the world is 1603, Egypt 2508 and in Pakistan 1629. Sugarcane yield in the world is 61591, Egypt is 103,637 and Pakistan 46,025. Tobacco yield in the world is 1558, Japan is 2807 and in Pakistan is 1724.

We do not have a well-developed scientific procedure for providing advise to the farmers on the use of fertilizers in different ecological zones. Chemical fertilizers happen to be the largest single input in 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. In order to maximize the efficiency of fertilizer use, the placement of fertilizer, the time and method of application and interaction with other inputs like water, land preparation, seed rate and weeding should be explored for the guidance to the farmers.

IMPROVED SEEDS: Seed plays a unique role among the various agricultural inputs. The improvement and 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 and rice tremendously increased output. Wheat production was increased from 8691 thousand metric tons in 1975-6 to 20156 thousand metric tons in 2001-02, and rice production was increased from 2617 thousand metric tons to 5020 thousand metric tons in the same years. However, it was observed that average crop yield per hectare is 2.5 to 5.8 times less than the developed countries.

To increase the crop production small and medium farmers should be given due attention for the supply of improved seed in order to boost up the crop production on national levels. The supply of good quality of seed should be consumed through an effective organization of a scientifically based seed production system to incorporate standardization if all steps involving variety evaluation approval and release of variety, setting up of seed multiplication chain starting from pre-basic seed and leading to the production of the basic and certified seed, seed processing, seed quality control, appropriate storage and setting up of the distribution and marketing systems are taken into account. The cohesion and the coordination of the various segments of seed multiplication and distribution is also the necessity. There is no organized seed industry to meet full requirements of the farmers. Hardly 9-10 percent of wheat, 50 percent of cotton, 6 percent of maize are met by the public sector.

PLANT PROTECTION: Plant protection measures play very important role for the modernization of country's agriculture. Pests and diseases had always taken heavy toll of agricultural production. Protection of plants from pests and diseases is essential to obtain beneficial effects of fertilizers and other inputs. Plant protection is an expensive input but the returns are also high. Serious thought to adoption of plant protection measures was given when widespread attack of pests and diseases on crops was experienced and vitiated. Availability of necessary pesticides and equipment for plant protection measures was therefore considered very essential. According to a study conducted by IRRI between 1964 and 1979, it was concluded that rice yield could be increased by 2.5 times if the proper pest management practices were followed. Proper use of plant protection measures increases yield per hectare. Post-harvest losses are high due to inadequate harvesting equipment and lack of post-harvest technology.

Plant protection measures in Pakistan currently comprise largely of the use of pesticides, which has grown from about 915 tons in 1981 to 3,455 tons in 1985 and from 27,961 in 1993-94 to 37,470 tons in 2000. The practice of protecting crops against pest and diseases in the past decade has increased very rapidly with the result that the consumption of pesticides has increased to 43,373 tons in 1995 as against 5,000 in 1982. There is a need for the maintenance of an efficient crop protection service that covers the technical, social and economical aspects of plant protection.

IRRIGATION WATER: Pakistan's agriculture is mostly dependent on irrigation. It accounts for 76 percent of the total irrigated land in Pakistan against 25 percent for India and 35 percent for Indonesia. Irrigated land has increased from 12.5 million hectares in 1967-68 to nearly 17 million hectares in 2001-2002. Importance of irrigation system to the agriculture sector and consequently the whole economy is considerable and needs no emphasis. Much of the increase in agriculture production since the mid 1960s had been due to investments in the irrigation system (surface and ground water). Increase in the supplies of water and improvements in the timeliness of the delivery were instrumental in increasing yields due to use of higher quality inputs such as HYVS and increasing the use of complementary inputs such as fertilizer. It is said that in developing agricultural countries 70% water is used for irrigation of crops, 20% for industry and the rest 10% for the domestic use including for drinking purposes. Water use for irrigation purposes in Pakistan is quite high and inefficient rather wasteful. Currently, water logging has affected about 8.2 mha of land, whereas about 6.3 mha of land is affected with salinity of varying scale.

More than 80% of the cultivated area in Pakistan is dependent upon irrigation and rest of the area is by and large rainfed. Irrigation is responsible for over 90 per cent of the agriculture production. Of the annual average flow of 142 MAF of the three western rivers of Indus system allocated to Pakistan under the Indus Waters Treaty 1960, but only about 92 MAF is being delivered through canals. The total cultivated areas are being fed by Tarbella, Mangla and Chashma reservoirs, 23 barrages, 12 inter-river link canals and 43 main canals. Estimates show that about 60 per cent of water is lost during conveyance. Through canals, distributors and water courses. Water available from tubewells through ground water pumpage amounts to 45 MAF. The water requirement per acre per year for wheat is 13 inches, cotton 26 inches, rice 36 inches, sugarcane 53 inches and maize 14 inches.

At present, about 60 per cent of water is lost through conveyance from rivers to the farmers and to the fields. To reduce the losses the measure taken by OFWM programme included only watercourse lining, concrete control structures and precision land leveling but not much has been alone to improve the canals. Thus improvement in the efficiency of water use are to be given high priority.

MECHANIZATION: The progress of agriculture in the developing countries including Pakistan over the last 2 decades reveal that the mechanization has played a vital role in boosting the agriculture production. In this context, tractors, tubewells and other farm machinery implements have greatly helped in increasing the cultivated areas, cropped areas, cropping intensity and consequently the crop production of the country. For instance cropped area in the country has increased from 18.02 million hectares in 1975-76 to 22.14 million hectares in 2001-2002. The most popular farm mechanization in Pakistan has been tubewells, tractors, threshers and implements.

Mechanization has become essential to intensify cultivation and increase the speed of pre-harvest and post-harvest operations. The use of agricultural machinery for the development or reclamation of new land, cultivation, ploughing, ridging, sowing and harvesting of crop is gradually increasing.

Agricultural marketing: Increasing yield requires a lot of administrative over hand in input marketing practices. Absence of facilities for marketing are considered constraints on agricultural production. The growers and consumers suffer at the hands of middle men in any important marketing system. It needs improvement in extension services so that the results achieved at research farm stations can be replicated in nook and corner of the agriculture activity.

STORAGE: Lack of storage capacity could greatly slow down buying and procurement activities and consequently the storage problem is shifted to the farmers, where the majority do not have the space to store the produce in homes and is thus left in the field or improperly stood, subjecting the produce to deterioration and thereby causing reduction in the value of the production. There should be storage facilities for all sorts of food grains, vegetables and fruits.

Agricultural research and extension service is very essential for development of agriculture in the country. It is also necessary to improve both quality and quantity of scientific manpower in the domain of agriculture with a view to catering for improvement/development of research capabilities of agriculture research institutions of the country. The majority problems in the field of agricultural development necessitated improvement in extension services in coverage and quality.

CONCLUSION: Agriculture plays an important role directly and indirectly in generating economic growth. The importance of agriculture to the economy is seen in three ways; firstly, it provides food for consumes and fibres for domestic industry; secondly, it is a source of scare foreign exchange earning and thirdly, it provides market for industrial food. Agriculture has a strong backward linkages and forward linkages. It contributes about 24.8 percent of the gross domestic product and employs almost half of the national labour force. The contribution of the agriculture sector to the gross domestic product through declined gradually since Pakistan came into being from a level of over 59.9% in 1949-50 to about 24.8% in 2001-02, it still remains the major sector contributing 18 percent to GDP is manufacturing followed closely by wholesale and retail sector. The transport and communication sector adds 92.% while others 31%.

A major part of the economy depends on farming through production, processing and distribution of major agricultural commodities. It provides food, feed, fiber, fuel and industrial raw material, employs more than half of the labour force and earns foreign export of primary commodities like cotton, rice and agro-based products like textiles. In foreign trade, it is the agriculture again, which dominates through exports of raw products like rice, cotton, semi-processed and processed products like cotton yarn, cloth, carpets, leather products. Agriculture is essential for sustainable improvements in internal and external balances. Agriculture is equally crucial to industry. Agriculture has the potential to contribute move to total revenue. Until recently, neither agricultural incomes nor agricultural holdings were taxed.