By Mohiuddin Aazim
New wheat and paddy varieties are contributing, though modestly, to higher per-hectare yields, but the growers have yet to get the certified seeds according to their requirements.
The 26m tonnes target set for 2014-15 wheat crop on 8.91m hectares means the expected yield has been worked out at about 2.91 tonnes. This is higher than 2013-14’s (initially estimated) yield of around 2.80 tonnes per hectare. And, one of the factors inbuilt into higher yield projection is greater use of new seed varieties, sources in Federal Committee on Agriculture claim.
National average yield of wheat was slightly over 2.55 tonnes per hectare in 2009-10. But it gradually increased, bringing the five-year (2010-14) average to 2.74 tonnes per hectare, stats in annual economic surveys show.
Growers say wheat varieties released in 2011 such as Aari-2011, Aas-2011, Millat-2011, NARC-2011 and Punjab-2011 are being cultivated on different scales mostly in Punjab. Bharabi-2011 has been under cultivation mainly in the rainfed areas of the province. And, in Sindh, such new varieties like NIA Amber-2010, NIA Sunehri-2010, NIA Sunder-2011, Benazir-2012 and Hammal are in use in addition to old varieties.
“If commercial-scale experiments and release of new rice varieties get delayed due to financial constraints, food processing firms and exporters can provide help,” says a REAP official
During their trial production, the last two seed varieties had given higher than average per-hectare yield and when growers used them for large-scale cultivation in the 2013-14 crop, they actually experienced their utility. Many of them reported yield as high as 3.5 tonnes per hectare of Benazir-2012 and 2.8 tonnes per-hectare of Hammal.
Wheat growers say all new seed varieties were giving, by and large, better yields than most of the varieties released in 2000s. They also say that Galaxy-2013 and PAK-2013 varieties released last year have been recommended for cultivation in irrigated and rainfed areas of Punjab respectively whereas NIA Sarang-2013 and Benazir-2013 have been recommended for Sindh.
Officials of Pakistan Agricultural Research Council say the Council has recommended Pirsabak-2013 for irrigated areas of KP and Shahkar-2013 and Lalma-2013 for rain-fed areas of the province. Growers say Shahkar-2013 has been sown not only in KP but in Punjab as well and, based on some experiments last year, they hope for higher yield in 2014-15.
They say that NARC-2011 and PAK-2013 wheat varieties, developed jointly by the US and Pakistani scientists, not only give high yields but are capable of surviving UG99, a wheat fungal disease. They, however, lament that shortage of certified seeds makes it difficult for them to get high yields out of newly released seeds. The federal agriculture committee’s has also noted that certified wheat seeds would meet only 25pc seed requirement of farmers.
RICE: This year’s rice crop, which is still being harvested, is forecast to yield no less than 7.2m tonnes of grains, according to the latest Suparco’s estimates. This will be quite an improvement over the last year’s recorded production of 6.8m tonnes. And, the use of new high-yield seed varieties also stated to have a hand in it.
Our national average rice grain yield has remained range-bound between 2.04 tonnes and 2.40 tonnes per hectare in last five years, according to annual economic surveys. Provincial averages do vary and variety-wise variations are also there. But growers say that even the best rice variety does not yield more than 3.5-4 tonnes per hectare.
This year’s rice crop harvesting is in progress and officials and growers say they are expecting rise in per-hectare yield due to sowing of some new varieties. Suparco’s estimates show the national average yield would be around 2.47 tonnes against last year’s 2.44 tonnes per hectare.
Three-year trial production (from 2007-09) had showed that a relatively new paddy variety Basmati-515 could provide higher per-hectare yield than popular super-Basmati and it was moderately resistant to bakanae/foot root and blast diseases. Its head rice recovery and grain length was also found better than that of super-Basmati.
Paddy growers in Punjab have since been cultivating Basmati-515 along with super-Basmati to get overall better average per-hectare yield, officials of Punjab agriculture department say.
In 2011, a professor of genetics of Hazara University had claimed to have developed a rice variety, with potential yield of 10 tonnes per hectare. He had claimed that the new variety, the result of the cross breeding of a wild rice variety and three existing varieties including Basmati-385, would mature 20 days earlier than existing varieties. It was supposed to be ready for sowing by now but its current status is not known.
Rice exporters say that the government must encourage development of such new varieties. “If commercial-scale experiments and subsequent approval and release of such varieties get delayed due to financial constraints, food processing companies and exporters can provide help,” offers an official of Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan.