Experts Advice Wheat Crops Care Guidelines To Farmers

Government has been providing subsidies & incentives to wheat farmers to increase their production, but there are still several challenges that the wheat sector faces in Pakistan.

Experts Advice Wheat Crops Care Guidelines To Farmers

Pakistan’s economy is agriculture based one. It has multiple linkages with the overall economy as it provides industrial raw materials and is hence a major contributor to employment and foreign exchange. It employs approximately 37.4% of the labour force and contributes 22.7% of GDP, with wheat accounting for 1.7%. However, the wheat sector in Pakistan is currently facing challenges.

Wheat is a staple food crop in (the northern subcontinent of) Pakistan, and it is one of the most important crops grown in the country. Pakistan is the eighth largest wheat producer in the world and the largest in Asia. Wheat is grown on more than 9 million hectares of land in Pakistan.

It is the second-largest crop in terms of area, with an annual production of around 26.4 million tons. It is grown in all parts of the country, with the highest production in Punjab, followed by Sindh, KPK, and Baluchistan.

Brief History

In 1947–48, Pakistan achieved a wheat yield of 8.4 (mond/acer). In the 1970s, Pakistan launched the Green Revolution, and the average wheat yield increased to 14.4 (mond/acer). This increase was mainly due to the adoption of new technologies, such as mechanization, fertilizers, and pesticides. In the 1980s, the average wheat yield in Pakistan continued to increase, reaching 17.5 (mond/acer) .

The government of Pakistan launched several programs to support the agriculture sector, including the National Agricultural Research Center (NARC) and the Agricultural Development Bank of Pakistan (ADBP). In the 1990s, the average wheat yield in Pakistan increased to 20 (mond/acer).

This increase was mainly due to the adoption of new varieties and technologies developed by NARC. In the 2000s and 2020s, the average wheat yield in Pakistan continued to increase, reaching 25 and 30 (mond/acer) respectively. This increase was mainly due to the introduction of new varieties that were more resistant to pests and diseases.

Challenges faced by the wheat sector

The government of Pakistan has been providing subsidies and incentives to wheat farmers to increase their production, but there are still several challenges that the wheat sector faces in Pakistan. These challenges include climate change, water scarcity, pests and diseases, low yields, and low quality seeds.

Climate Change

Pakistan is highly vulnerable to climate change, which is a major cause of floodwater scarcity and heat stress problems. Water scarcity is one of the major challenges facing the wheat sector in Pakistan. The country has a limited water supply, and the majority of it is used for agriculture.

Due to poor water management and a lack of investment in irrigation infrastructure, many farmers in Pakistan face water shortages during the growing season, which reduces the yield of wheat crops.

Heat stress and wheat rust

On the other hand, heat stress has more effects on wheat crop growth and development. At the time of grain filling, heat stress causes shrinkage of the grain, which results in a low yield. In addition to this, the wheat crop is also facing wheat rust, a fungal disease that can cause significant damage to wheat crops. In recent years, Pakistan has experienced outbreaks of wheat rust, which has led to significant yield losses.

Marketing and infrastructure

The wheat sector in Pakistan also suffers from poor infrastructure and inefficient supply chains, which result in higher costs for farmers and consumers. Inefficient wheat marketing is another major challenge facing the wheat sector in Pakistan.

Farmers often have to sell their wheat crops to middlemen at low prices, who then sell the wheat to flour mills at higher prices, resulting in a significant loss for the farmers. Moreover, the government often intervenes in the wheat market by setting wheat prices and procuring wheat from farmers, which can lead to distortions in the market.

Many small-scale farmers in Pakistan face difficulties in accessing credit, which hampers their ability to invest in their wheat crops. Banks and other financial institutions often require collateral, which many farmers do not have. Moreover, the interest rates charged by these institutions can be prohibitively high, making it difficult for farmers to repay the loans.

Limited research and development

Despite being a major producer of wheat, Pakistan has a limited research and development infrastructure for the wheat sector. There is a lack of investment in research and development, which has led to limited innovation in the sector. Moreover, the government has not provided adequate funding for research institutions, and private sector investment in research and development is also limited.

Lack of awareness about smart farming

Many farmers in Pakistan lack awareness and education about modern farming techniques, including the use of improved seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides. Moreover, many farmers are not aware of the latest research and development in the sector. This lack of awareness and education can lead to low yields and reduced income for farmers.

How to overcome these challenges:

Developing Climate-Resilient Varieties

One of the major challenges facing the wheat sector is climate change. Rising temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, and an increased frequency of extreme weather events can reduce wheat yields. Future research in wheat should focus on developing climate-resilient varieties that can withstand these changes and continue to produce high yields.

Enhancing nutritional quality

Wheat is an important source of nutrition for many people around the world. Future research should aim to enhance the nutritional quality of wheat by developing varieties that are rich in essential micronutrients, such as iron and zinc.

Improving Disease Resistance

Wheat is susceptible to a number of diseases, including wheat rust and Fusarium head blight. These diseases can significantly reduce yields and quality. Future research should focus on developing disease-resistant varieties of wheat that can withstand these diseases without the need for chemical treatments.

Enhancing Water and Nutrient Use Efficiency

Water and nutrient use efficiency are critical for sustainable agriculture. Future research should aim to develop wheat varieties that can use water and nutrients more efficiently, reducing the need for irrigation and fertilizers.

Developing Precision Agriculture Techniques

Precision agriculture techniques, such as remote sensing and data analytics, can help farmers optimize crop inputs and maximize yields. Future research should focus on developing new precision agriculture techniques specifically for wheat production.

Developing Climate-Resilient Varieties

GM can be used to develop climate-resilient varieties of wheat that can withstand changes in temperature and precipitation patterns. For example, scientists can use gene editing techniques to introduce genes from drought-resistant plants into wheat.

Winter wheat

The country’s population is increasing abruptly, and the area under cultivation is decreasing, so future research should focus on introducing winter wheat in northern areas of the country like Gilgit Baltistan. The winter wheat crop is about a 10 month crop. Young plants remain in the vegetative phase during the winter and restart their growth in early spring.

In conclusion, the wheat sector in Pakistan faces a number of challenges, including water scarcity, soil degradation, wheat rust, inefficient wheat marketing, a lack of research and development, inadequate access to credit, and a lack of awareness and education. Addressing these challenges will require significant investment in infrastructure, research and development, education and training, and policy reforms.

By Muhammad Ikram Ullah

Student of Agronomy at Agricalture university Faisalabad