Friday, 30 December 2011

How to develop floriculture?

How to develop floriculture? PDF Print E-mail
Written by By Dr Muhammad Qasim, Tanveer Ahmad & Iftikhar Ahmad   

UNFORTUNATELY, Pakistan has negligible share in worldwide floriculture trade despite having fertile lands, best irrigation system, and rich resources to venture in this enterprising business which not only generates rural employment but also fetches precious foreign exchange.
Of the total floriculture trade, cut-flowers sales account for 50 per cent and plants 41 per cent; bulb and cut foliage make up rest of nine per cent. Eight countries export 74 per cent of the value of the world’s floriculture crops — the Netherlands, Columbia, Israel, Italy, Belgium, Denmark, the US and Ecuador. More than 50 per cent of the floriculture products come from the Netherlands.

If we compare the resources of Pakistan with the Netherlands, we have an area 20 times more, manpower 9 to 10 times more and better climate, soil and irrigation system. What we are lacking is the modern production technology.
Secondly, planning policies are not strong enough to attract people towards this potential enterprise. Many developing have emerged as successful growers and exporters of flowers in the recent past.
In Pakistan, floriculture is viewed as a lucrative enterprise for poverty alleviation. Some initiatives have also been taken for the promotion of floriculture to enter the global floriculture trade. Policy makers need to draw upon the experience of other countries.
Our production and marketing needs to be streamlined in accordance with their policies that may help in flourishing floriculture industry. Policies should be planned on thorough review of enterprise, market demand, and economic priorities.
The right policies must come from the government while the creativity lies in the hands of private sector. Efficacy of technical assistance for export diversification is linked with the product and market development. National expertise and technical assistance should be provided for improved surveys, feasibility studies and formulation of export strategies. This will strengthen the national capacity to pursue export diversification.
Floriculture industry needs technical assistance in sectors like improvement in planting material, seed production and provision of controlled environment and infrastructure for post harvest care. Improved planting material and seed production can be achieved and enhanced through the research activities.
The government and public sector should sort out the problems of the formers and then focus on the research on them. Through strong extension activities, the farmers can be benefited by the results of the research. Technical assistance is also required for post harvest infrastructure that includes pre-cooling, refrigerated vans for transportation and air-conditioned storage facilities.
Another aspect to be considered is investment. For example, gladiolus cultivation requires almost Rs0.7 million per hectare. This huge investment can not be paid by the ordinary farmer. This problem can be solved by two ways. Firstly, corporate farming should be introduced to induct modern technology. Secondly, the investment problem can be solved by corporate farming.
Our surveys suggest that majority of farmers involved in floriculture trade are uneducated. Educating farmers on production and post harvest technology and specifically on marketing procedures may yield some good results.
In the later stage when huge investments are made and enterprises are established, graduates from the universities will be absorbed in the industry. Corporate farming provides opportunities to absorb graduates in the industry and at the same time may be helpful in the technology transfer.
Coping with the international marketing demands, a clear approach on maintaining international standards should be adopted. Our industry can flourish, if Horticulture Development and Export Board (PHEDB) encourages investments and sets up centres for educating the farmers about the modern trends in floriculture and helps the farmers in marketing their products maintaining the high standards. The policies can be successful only when the awareness through education is imparted to the growers to compete with the farmers of the advanced countries.

Courtesy: The DAWN, can also be find on

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Agricultural development through contract farming

Agricultural development through contract farming  
by Dr.Shoukat Ali
Experts are endorsing contract farming to promote private investment in agricultural sector. It is assumed that it would allow accelerated technology transfer, capital inflow and assured market for crop production especially of oilseeds, cotton, sugarcane and horticultural crops. Keeping in view the privatization trend, the government seems inclined to support the idea. Basically, it is not a new idea as it is already being pursued by agro-based industry such as maize and sugarcane industry. These industries provide seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and technical advisory services to the growers and in return, they get assured quantity and quality of commodities on market rates. Textile manufacturers are also working on details for contract farming. It is considered that the idea would help in providing contamination-free cotton to textile industry. It would also promote the proper usage of inputs, improving crop management practices and insect-pest control. Through contract farming, it is also possible to adopt drip irrigation, establishment of warehouses and cold storages at village level.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has established a new website on contract farming. The Rural Infrastructure and Agro-industries Division of FAO (AGS) has launched the ‘Contract Farming Resource Centre’ in April 2008, for the international community where information on contract farming issues is available. Many experts and policy makers have argued that it is a win-win state of affairs for farmers and agribusiness companies, especially in the developing world. According to them, it is a good safety net for farmers. They do not have to search for markets and get assured price. In addition, it provides tools, technology and capital. The idea is gaining popularity in those countries where per capita income of farming community is very low and farmers are unable to purchase the inputs and adopt modern farming techniques. Pakistani farmers have both characteristics. So, it is expected that in the near future Pakistan will employ contract farming to achieve desired agricultural targets and goals.
Contract farming is an agreement between buyers and farmers which establish terms and conditions for the production and marketing of the farm products. Farmers provide quality and committed quantity to the buyers and buyers provide the inputs and advisory services to the farmers and purchase the product at agreed price. The contract farming system can be viewed as a partnership between agribusiness organizations and farmers.
In contract farming both farmers and sponsors have advantages. Farmers have advantage of inputs i.e. seed, fertilizers, pesticides, machinery, credit, new technology, price assurance and new market avenues that are made available to the farmers by the sponsors. These facilities would otherwise have been unavailable to the small farmers. Of more importance is the provision of agricultural extension services to the farmers. Private agribusiness companies usually offer technology with more commitment than public agricultural extension services because they have a direct economic interest in improving farmers’ yield. On the other hand, there is equal disadvantage; if sponsoring organizations impose the unnecessary condition to grow specific crops of which farmers have little know-how to cultivate. Similarly, sponsoring agencies have advantage of uninterrupted and regular flow of raw material, protection from price fluctuation and assured supplier base.
In Pakistan, there is great potential for contract farming. Major industry of the country is agro-based. The textile industry, sugar industry, oil industry, leather industry, flour industry, maize industry, etc. depends on agricultural raw material. In case of low production, the industries suffer shortages and are forced to import a raw material which ultimately increases the cost of production. In case of over-production, farmers suffer huge losses due to low market prices of the commodities
In Pakistan, majority of the farming community fall in the category of small farmers. There are 6.62 million farms cultivating an area of 20.41 million hectares in the country. About 86 percent of these farms had less than five hectares. It accounted for 44 percent of the total farm area. Only 16 percent farmers have more then five hectares cultivating 56 percent of area. It is obvious that major land resources of Pakistan are occupied by a small percentage of large farmers. The small farmers are poor and unable to purchase and adopt latest and mechanized agricultural technology. The government is providing credit to the farmers through banks, but majority of the farmers have no access to credits. The high interest rate for agricultural loan as compare to other sectors is another menace. Co-operative farming is one of the solutions to overcome these problems but a study recently conducted in Punjab province reveals that farmers are not willing to adopt co-operative farming. The other alternative is contact farming.
Critics of contract farming tend to emphasis the inequality of the relationship and the stronger position of sponsors with respect to that of growers. There should be a specific legislation to regulate contract between unequal parties: companies, or organization on the one hand and economically weaker farmers on the other. In an era of market liberalisation, globalization and expanding agribusiness, there is a threat that small-scale farmers will find difficulty in participating in the market economy. In a county like Pakistan, where the overwhelming majority is of small and marginalised farmers, there is dire need to convert the threat into an opportunity
origional post here.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Techniques in genetic engineering and micro-biology to improve agriculture

Techniques in genetic engineering and micro-biology to improve agriculture

Causes of low farm yield

By Bilal Hassan

THE per hectare yield of major crops like wheat, rice, cotton, sugarcane and maize is lower than the potential. A number of factors could be attributed to low crop yield in the country.Soil preparation: Fine seed bed is required for uniform and maximum seed germination that contributes to good crop harvest. Uneven seed bed creates problem of water logging and salinity and loss of nutrients and moisture. For fine and uniform seed bed, it is imperative to use standard number of ploughings and cultivation. On the other, the farmers ignore recommended number of ploughings and cultivations and adopt traditional approach.
Seed cultivar: Sowing of recommended seed cultivar in a particular zone is crucial because only that cultivar could produce optimum yield as it is recommended by the crop scientists keeping in view the elements of climate such as light, temperature, rainfall, wind and humidity etc. By and large, non-recommended seed cultivars are sown in the fields. The supply of certified seed is extremely less than the actual requirements of the major crops. Resultantly, about 55 -- 92 per cent seed sown in the country is uncertified.Seed rate: The use of recommended seed rate is essential for optimum crop density that is number of plants per unit area. But farmers use low seed rate owing to which plant population remains low in the field, a major cause of low yield . Moreover, the seed sown by the growers contain impurities like sand, silt, clay, seed of other crops, weed seed and dust etc, that result in less number of plants per unit area on one hand and generates problem of insect, pests and diseases on the other.Sowing time: Delayed wheat sowing because of rice-wheat and cotton-wheat cropping pattern is one of the major causes of low crop yield. Non-availability of seed, fertilizer and irrigation are other reasons for delayed sowing of crops.
Plant density: One of the major causes of low crop yield is low plant population because number of productive plants per unit area determines crop yields. Numbers of grains per spike and grain weight are other yield determinants. Poor quality seed, lack of moisture from seed bed and rough seed bed are responsible factors for low plant density.Irrigation: The farmers in barani areas are heavily dependent on the seasonal June-September monsoon rains for irrigating crops. There is a wide difference between yield of irrigated crops and barani crops. Deficient rains and continuous drought cause tremendous losses to farmers. A regular supply of irrigation water is essential to sustain crop productivity. In case, one or two critical growth stages go without irrigation during the lifecycle of a crop, it results in significant reduction in crop production. The adverse effects on per hectare yield of crops in 2000-01, 2001-02 and 2003-04 was due to unprecedented water shortage. To cope with water shortage, complete reorganisation of water sector institutions through mergers, economic utilisation of water resources, procurement of additional storage for crops round the year, building storage to overcome droughts and to develop comprehensive water and hydro resource policy are necessary.
Water logging and salinity: Water logged and saline soils not only reduce cropped area but also reduce soil fertility and productivity that causes low crop yield compared to normal soils. Floods, overflows, seepage and percolation of water from canals and watercourses breeds soil problems of water logging and salinity. It has been estimated that about 35 per cent water is lost through canals, 24 per cent though larger and smaller distributaries and 25 per cent during field application.Nutrients application: Agricultural soils contain very low organic matter. Also, nutrient deficiency is widely reported because of harvesting of exhaustive crops year after year, high temperature, low-rainfall, high-cost and imbalanced use of fertilizers.. Application of fertilizess in a balanced amount with standard methods and at appropriate time keeping in mind the soil nutrient status, soil moisture, crop type and crop growth stage can increase yield by 25-75 per cent.
Plant protection: Insects, pests, disease and weeds cause yield reduction up to 20 per cent or more during pre- and post-harvest periods. The farmers are bound to use pesticides in order to keep the population of insects and pests under control. The application of pesticides increased from 665 tons in 1990 to 78,133 tons in 2003-04 with an increase in value from Rs39 million to Rs8138 million. Lack of quality control, high cost, adulteration, timely unavailability, and lack of education and the use of faulty equipments by untrained labour are the major constraints responsible for the ineffectiveness of pesticides.Modern technology: Non-application of modern technology is contributing to low yield than the world average. Infusion of modern management practices in farm sector to boost productivity is important to enable farmers to move farm subsistence to market-driven farming that requires changes in crop selection, cultivation, harvesting, marketing, transportation and adoption of new technologies.Adoption of new technology is also important to convert farmers’ work into capital. Subsistence farmers produce food to sustain them only and new technology will enable them to produce surplus. New technology would give farmers more choice and help them plan cultivation in a demand rather than supply-driven environment. Modern techniques for plant protection measures are required for effective control of diseases, insects and pests to avoid crop.
Investment: Compared to other sectors of economy like small and large-scale manufacturing, there is less public and private investment in this sector. On the other, the private investment could be helpful in arresting the problems of irrigation system, improving seed distribution, and bringing new technology. Farmers are unaware of the new technologies for efficient irrigation methods like drip-irrigation and micro-irrigation. Availability of implements and new technology will have profound impact in improving crop productivity.Marketing system: The marketing system for agricultural produce is inflicted with a myriad of problems. It is outdated. The farmers are not making real profits on their produce due to lopsided marketing system. Lack of direct market access for farmers due to heavy involvement of state-run buying agencies has also stymied growth of agriculture sector. There is a need of market-oriented reforms for broad based sustained growth in farm productivity. Market infrastructure is inadequate for easy transport of inputs from market to farms and farm produce back to market.
Miscellaneous: Dwindling land and water resources, stagnation in the yield of major crops, ill-trained farm labour, poor infrastructure, wasteful irrigation methods, traditional farming techniques, lopsided marketing system and above all implications of WTO regime are main issues and challenges facing an outdated agriculture sector
key refrence. 

Guava in Pakistan, introduction and importance

Introduction and Importance

Guava (Psidium guajava L. Famly Myrtaceae) has attained commercial importance in tropics and subtropics because of its wide adaptability to varied soil and climatic conditions and as profilic bearer. Guava is believed to be originated in tropical America (Mexico to Peru). At present, it is mainly produced in South Asian countries, the Hawaiian Island, Cuba, Brazil, Pakistan and India. In Pakistan, it is grown in all the provinces over an area of 58.5 thousand hectares with production of 468.3 thousand tones Table 1. The major guava growing areas include Shariqpur, Kasur, Lahore, Sheikhupora, Sangla Hills, Gujranwala in the Punjab; Kohat, Haripur and Bannu in the North West Frontier Province and Larkana and Hyderabad in Sindh.
Presently guavas are grown almost entirely for fresh consumption. However, international market for fresh guavas is small. Nevertheless, more trade is carried on processed guava products like Juices and nectars, Jam and Jellies, fruit paste, canned whole and halves in syrup. Some traders believe that there is a good international market potential for fresh guavas and that demand will grow as more consumers become acquainted with this fruit. 
Table 1. Area and production of guava in Pakistan (1998-2005). 

As already stated guava is successfully grown under tropical and subtropical climatic zones. In areas having distinct winter season, the yield tends to increase and quality improves. It can be grown from sea level to an altitude of about 1515 m. young plants are susceptible to drought and cold conditions. Dry atmosphere at the time of flowering and fruit setting is ideal whereas high temperature at fruit development causes fruit drop.
The guava does equally well on heavy clay, to light sandy, graval bars near streams, or on limestone and tolrates a pH range from 4.5 to 9.4. It is some what salt resistant. Good dranage is recommended however, guavas are seen growing on land with high water table.
Guava is propagated generally through seed however, cuttings, air layering, grafting and budding is also practiced. Although guava is hard to root, investigations indicate that it can be successfully propagated from cuttings under mist. Leafy shoot-tip cuttings of current season growth (10-12 cm long) treated with Indole butyric acid give more that 80% rooting after six weeks when planted in sand under mist in greenhouse during July-August.
Commercial Varieties:
Safeda: Of medium size, with very thin skin, thick white flesh, few seeds.
Allahabad: Large white fleshed with few fairly hard seeds.
Karela: Medium large, pear shaped furrowed, rough skined with soft granular white flesh. Poor bearer.
Seed less: Medium to large, pear shape to avoid, with thick white flesh, firm to soft, light bearer.
Red fleshed: Of medium size with many fairly soft seeds, high in pectin and good for jelly.
Apple colour: Of medium size, slightly oblate deep pink skin, creamy white flesh, moderate amount of seeds, very sweet flavour. Heavy bearer, good keeping quality.
Production Technology:
Guava trees are planted at a distance of 5-6 meters. Trees grow rapidly and fruit in 2-4 years. They live 30-40 years but productivity declines after the 15th year. Orchard may be rejuvenated by drastic pruning. In guava, fruits are borne on current season's growth. Manuring and fertilization encourages vegetative growth and fruiting. A balanced supply of NPK gives increased yield with quality fruit. NPK at the ratio of 2:1:1 in two equally split doses once in January and other in August is recommended according to plant age and soil conditions. Guava some time suffers from deficiency of zinc and iron. Spraying the trees with 7.0 gm per litter of ZnSo4 and 46.5 gm of FeSo4 improves yield and quality.
Pruning and Deblossoming:
Light annual pruning is necessary to encourage new growth after every harvest. Guava flowers twice a year, first in March to April for summer crop and then in August to September for winter crop. Blooming period varies from 25-45 days. Winter crop is usually preferred as it yields higher with fruit of better quality. It is also possible to obtain blooming in a desired season. Some of the growers adopt the practice of having a good winter crop by with holding water during summer or deblossoming the summer crop. Research workers have suggested 2,4-D @ 30 mg per litre of water as the most effective chemical for deblossoming of summer flowers. Guava fruit takes about 125 days to reach maturity after setting.
At maturity fruit turns from green to oil green and at ripening creamy in colour. Hand picking of ripened fruits two to three times a week is suggested. The harvesting season many last 8-10 weeks. Fruit is highly perishable, therefore, it should be immediately marketed after harvest.
Other than insects during rainy season, the fungus, Phytophthora parasitica is responsible for fruit rot. Wilt, associated with the fungi Fusarium solani and Macrophomina phaseoli, brings about gradual decline and death of under nourished, 1-5 years old guava trees. Wilt is also caused by Fusarium oxysporum and Fusarium psidii which invades the trunk and roots.
Key Reference :,

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Examining Rice Genes for Rice Blast Resistance

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have characterized the molecular mechanism behind some plants' ability to resist rice blast, a fungal disease that affects cereal grain crops such as rice, wheat, rye and barley and can cause yield losses of up to 30 percent. The fungus has been found in 85 countries worldwide, including the United States.


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