Friday, 30 January 2015

Sugar addiction- A call to death

Before writing something about sugar and its hazards, I want to ask some questions to you. Do you struggle to walk past a sugary treat without taking just one?
If you are restricted to use sugar for 24 hours, do you feel headaches or disturbance? Do you feel that you cannot go on without hitting sugar? If you answer is “YES” it means you are sugar addicted .we often hear a sentence, If someone can die with sugar then no need to give him poison. It is not just a proverb it’s a reality because majority of our society is addicted to sugar. Today we are made up of sugar, sweets and addicts. But sugar is very dangerous for us and refined sugar is considered the most harmful. According to a research, American spends about 23.1 dollars on candies and gums. The average Americans consumes about 27.3 pounds of candies and gums in a weak and they spend about 54 dollars in dentil bill each year.
In Pakistan also, no day is gone without sweets? In Pakistan too, every person is consuming lot of sugar per person per year. The human body cannot tolerate this huge amount of sugar. Due to intake of more sugar, our vital organs are being damaged. You may be shocked to know that refined sugar has only calories but none i.e minerals, proteins, fats, enzymes. So when we are eating something made of sugar body uses the essential nutrients from the vital parts of the body to neutralize the effect of sugar in the body and in this way body becomes deficient of essential nutrients. Those essential nutrients are calcium, sodium, potassium and magnesium etc.
We know that ca is a major constituent of bones and it depleted when intake of sugar increases it may cause osteoporosis. More sugar also produces acidity in the body and more minerals are needed to balance.Another aspect of too much sugar consumption is that,if bodydoes not have enough minerals to neutralize then sugar produces poisonous residues.
These residues are dangerous for nervous system and cause the call death. Sugar is also dangerous for our blood it thickens the blood and makes it sticky and this thick and sticky blood cannot make up to the minute capillaries of teeth so it ends with starving teeth. Now a famous disease which I want to discus here is diabetes which is caused by high fats and also commonly known as “sugar”.
Diabetes is basically failure of pancreas to produce insulin to reduce the blood sugar level. When we use more sugar in our diet, it causes rapid rise in blood sugar level. Pancreas becomes out of order due to high sugar level and diabetes then rears its ugly head. Another disease caused by sugar is hyperglycemia. Sometimes due to high sugar level in blood pancreas over react. Due to its activity it produces more insulin which lowers the blood sugar level.So, to conclude of all is to inform you about the hazards of sugar. So, avoid the use of excess sugar, enjoy the life with good health. We will have to be very cautions while consuming sugar to avoid its harmful consequences. We being Pakistanis should particularly need to switch our food habit.

Difference Between Agriculture and Horticulture

Agriculture vs Horticulture
Although horticulture is generally classified as a subdivision of agriculture which deals with plant gardening, it is actually different from agriculture. It is easy to relate the two because some of the techniques employed are used interchangeably in both sciences, for instance in the cultivation of crops which is an agricultural process, many horticulture methods are employed. Horticulture is a complete science of its own as well as a full industry.
Horticulture is defined in the strict sense as the science that employs special techniques and methods to cultivate plants, including methods used to properly condition the soil for seed planting or planting tubers. The domain of horticulture includes cultivation, plant propagation, breeding of plants, production of crops, plant physiology as well as biochemistry and genetic engineering. The plants looked at are mainly vegetables, trees, flowers, turf, shrubs, fruits and nuts. Horticulturalists carry out extensive research in their domain in order to get better quality crop yields, improve their nutritional value to humans, make crops pest and disease resistant and adjust to environmental stresses. The most notable difference from agriculture is that horticulture deals with small scale gardening and usually in enclosed gardens although this is not a necessity while agriculture is done on large scale with extensive crop cultivation.
Agriculture is the science of growing food crops and rearing animals for farming. It involves the whole web of processes employed in the redirection of the natural flow of the food chain and the rechanneling of energy. The natural food web starts with the sun providing sunlight to plants which is then converted to sugars which are processed into plant food in a process called photosynthesis. Herbivores animals will eat plants as their food and the carnivores animals will eat the herbivores for food. Dead animals and plants will be decomposed by bacteria and return to the soil as plant nutrients and the whole chain repeats afresh. Agriculture actually rearranges this web so that plants are protected for human consumption although plants can be grown specifically for animal (herbivores) consumption like cattle, which is in turn reared for human consumption. Agriculture can be divided into two categories, which are conventional and sustainable agriculture. Conventional agriculture deals with modifying some environmental factors like trees, soil tilling, and irrigation and all activities that favor single crop growing especially for crops like wheat, rice and corn. Sustainable agriculture is where ecological principles are employed in the farming. It is also known as agro-ecology. It aims at sustainable farming practices. It involves planting of a variety of crops together so the farming garden will never be bare at any time.
1. Horticulture strictly involves plant cultivation only while agriculture deals with cultivation of crops as well as animal farming.
2. Horticulture may include plants that are not for human consumption while agriculture mainly focuses on crops for human consumption.
3. Horticulture is done on smaller, enclosed plots while agriculture is done on extensive pieces of land on large scale.



Every living organism exchanges feelings, attitudes, ideas, intentions and expectations with other specie fellows by the mean of dialog, non-verbal nods and or behavior etc. These tools when practiced, produces the influence which bring out the change in behavior of individuals around. This type of conversation and communicationmakes the life active and social.
Human is also a social animal, having more complex communication channels with varying objectives. It is complex because of the use of language along with gesture codes which have close resemblance. Likewise, although in other species of animal, birds and insect, system of communication is not intricate but they can participate in communication. It is limited by nature and related to their ordinary desires.
Some insects like ants, termites and honey bees also possess social behavior in nature. They have different ways to convey thecraving information by different modes. Honey bees also use these modes to talk toother bees. From the bee hive some bees go out to supply food materialsconsistingofpollens and nectars to the rest of bees in colony. These bees are called as forager. Some foragers communicatetheir food findings to the other fellow bees for nector and pollen collection. In this way they actually guide their fellows in search of food. The reason that decide the recruiting success is not totally acknowledged but perhaps include evaluations of the worth of pollens and nectars fetched in.
There are different hypotheses about; how the foragers train the other young fellow workers. First, the dance language theory and secondly, the theory of odur plume. Most widely accepted is the dance language theory because it has more realistic support. But some time scientist claim that only dance is principally irrelevant and recruitment relies both on odor and dance.
On returning back to hive, forager bees perform two types of dances. Frist one is known as waggle dance which is perform when food is farther away. Secound one is petite form of waggle dance called as round dance, representating the food origin is nearby. Initially Aristotled in his book “Historia Animalium” described that loaded forager bees dance in circular pattern on the comb, rearly crossing circle in waggle or zig zag pattern.
First time von Frisch (1947)studied the relation of distance and direction of food collected from the hive with runs and turns of dance. He concluded that waggle portion length of run is directly proportion to the distance of food from hive and orientation of dance is relative to the position of the sun. Also, the fast moment is, the better quality and quantity of food. This conversation is actually to teach the rest of forager to find the food direction, distance and quality of food material. On this discovery, von Frisch was awarded the Nobel prize in 1973.
When we talk about that behavior of the bees, it may vary the in species to species and race to race. For example in dwarf honeybees this dance is executed on the horizontal portion of the hive. In regard with the dance language, each species has different characteristically. But it is final that this language is present in every community of bees. This way of conversation is unique and possessed by the honey bees only.

Whitefly Damage

Eggs are laid and immature stages of whitefly develop on the undersides of leaves on most crops. Adults congregate on younger leaves in most crops and oviposition is heaviest on these leaves. The location on the plant of the various stages of the whitefly follows the development of the plant. Eggs and early instar nymphs are found on the young leaves and larger nymphs are usually more numerous on older leaves.
Adults congregate, feed, and mate on the under surfaces of the leaves of the host plant. This can occur in such numbers as to create "clouds" when disturbed. They appear to be more active during the sunny daylight periods, and do not fly as readily during early morning, late evening, or night hours.
The nymphal stages are sedentary, with the exception of the crawler, which after hatching moves a very short distance. Once a feeding site is selected the nymphs do not move. They suck juices from the plant with their piercing-sucking mouthparts. The nymphs are located on the undersides of the leaves and can become so numerous that they almost cover the entire undersurface area.
Direct crop damage occurs when whiteflies feed in plant phloem, remove plant sap and reduce plant vigor. With high populations plants may die. Whiteflies also excrete honeydew, which promotes sooty mold that interferes with photosynthesis and may lower harvest quality. In cotton, the sugars excreted during whitefly feeding make the cotton fibers sticky and can promote growth of sooty mold, both of which reduce quality. In some hosts, damage can result from whitefly feeding toxins that cause plant disorders such as silver leaf of squash and irregular ripening of tomato. Plant viruses also can be transmitted by whiteflies, such as the geminiviruses in tomatoes, peppers and cabbage, and certain clostroviruses like lettuce infectious yellows in lettuce and melons. Plant disorders and virus transmission are of particular concern because they can occur even when a whitefly population is small. In general, the older the plant when infected with virus or the later the onset of plant disorders, the less damage to the crop, so preventative action is critical. Prevention is also crucial in managing whiteflies in highly cosmetic crops such as ornamental plants, where even low numbers of whiteflies can affect marketability.
The sweetpotato whitefly currently is known to attack over 500 species of plants representing 74 plant families. They have been a particular problem on members of the squash family (squash, melons, cucumbers, pumpkins), tomato family (tomato, eggplant, potato), cotton family (cotton, okra, hibiscus), bean family (beans, soybean, peanuts), Gerber daisies, salvia, poinsettia, and many other ornamental plants. The poinsettia is a favored host and suffers color loss as well as leaf damage.
Whitefly management in a given crop will depend greatly on the severity of damage caused in that crop and the number of whiteflies required inflicting this damage. Very few whiteflies are required to transmit viruses, so where this is the major concern, the grower will want to avoid even small numbers of whiteflies. A combination of selected cultural practices, intensive chemical treatments or physical controls, and/or the development of host plant resistance, may be most effective. Where low levels of whiteflies are tolerable, other methods such as biological control can be more effective.

Role of plants breeding in organic agriculture

Plant breeding is the art and science of changing the traits of plants in order to produce desired characteristics. Plant breeding can be accomplished through many different techniques ranging from simply selecting plants with desirable characteristics for propagation, to more complex molecular techniques (see cultigen and cultivar).Plant breeding has been practiced for thousands of years, since near the beginning of human civilization. It is now practiced worldwide by individuals such as gardeners and farmers, or by professional plant breeders employed by organizations such as government institutions, universities, crop-specific industry associations or research centers.
International development agencies believe that breeding new crops is important for ensuring food security by developing new varieties that are higher-yielding, resistant to pests and diseases, drought-resistant or regionally adapted to different environments and growing conditions.
Critics of organic agriculture claim it is too low-yielding to be a viable alternative to conventional agriculture. However, part of that poor performance may be the result of growing poorly adapted varieties. It is estimated that over 95% of organic agriculture is based on conventionally adapted varieties, even though the production environments found in organic vs. conventional farming systems are vastly different due to their distinctive management practices. Most notably, organic farmers have fewer inputs available than conventional growers to control their production environments. Breeding varieties specifically adapted to the unique conditions of organic agriculture is critical for this sector to realize its full potential. This requires selection for traits such as:
  • Water use efficiency
  • Nutrient use efficiency (particularly nitrogen and phosphorus)
  • Weed competitiveness
  • Tolerance of mechanical weed control
  • Pest/disease resistance
  • Early maturity (as a mechanism for avoidance of particular stresses)
  • Abiotic stress tolerance (i.e. drought, salinity)
Currently, few breeding programs are directed at organic agriculture and until recently those that did address this sector have generally relied on indirect selection (i.e. selection in conventional environments for traits considered important for organic agriculture). However, because the difference between organic and conventional environments is large, a given genotype may perform very differently in each environment due to an interaction between genes and the environment. If this interaction is severe enough, an important trait required for the organic environment may not be revealed in the conventional environment, which can result in the selection of poorly adapted individuals. To ensure the most adapted varieties are identified, advocates of organic breeding now promote the use of direct selection (i.e. selection in the target environment) for many agronomic traits.
There are many classical and modern breeding techniques that can be utilized for crop improvement in organic agriculture despite the ban on genetically modified organisms. For instance, controlled crosses between individuals allow desirable genetic variation to be recombined and transferred to seed progeny via natural processes. Marker assisted selection can also be employed as a diagnostics tool to facilitate selection of progeny who possess the desired trait, greatly speeding up the breeding process.This technique has proven particularly useful for the introgression of resistance genes into new backgrounds, as well as the efficient selection of many resistance genes pyramided into a single individual. 

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Credit key to agriculture

One of the keys to agricultural development is accessible credit. This was the conclusion arrived at last Jan. 17 of the 10 leaders elected and identified by 200 stakeholders at the AF2025 Conference held on Feb. 10-11, 2011.
These leaders are composed of four secretaries from three presidential administrations and six heads of major agriculture and agribusiness organizations.
The table below was constructed from information given by former Minister of Science and Technology Emil Javier (now Chair of the Coalition for Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines-CAMP) and the Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Credit and Policy Council (DA-ACPC).
Of the total loans given by the banks in 2013, only 1.9 percent went to farmers and fisherfolk. Because production is more risky than processing and agribusiness, less than 1 percent of this amount went to production.
Of the 6 million farmers and fisherfolk, only 28 percent were able to get credit. From this small number, only 57 percent got credit from formal sources such as banks and financial institutions. The rest had to pay much higher interest rates from informal sources such as traders, input suppliers, processors, relatives and friends.
Credit importance
Why is credit key? Even if one is able to address problems like infrastructure, product identification, technology transfer, post-harvest facilities and market access, producing the goods is still not possible without money.
One leader recounted what a farmer had told him: “Sure, I get training on new technologies. But if I don’t have the money to get the inputs or equipment to use this training, support services such as training become useless.”
Former Economic Planning Secretary Cielito Habito said that for agricultural development to take place, our institutions have to be strengthened so that services such as agricultural credit will become more accessible.
Former Agriculture Secretary Senen Bacani identified the Land Bank of the Philippines as one such institution that has done commendable work. However, it is hindered from fulfilling its principal mandate by constraints such as its fiduciary responsibility to its private sector depositors.
agricultureThe 2013 Land Bank Annual Report states that only 36 percent of its P227-billion loan portfolio went to agriculture. While 24 percent went to agribusiness and agriculture-related government projects, only 12 percent went to the targeted main sector of small farmers and fisherfolk. About 64 percent of the loan portfolio went to projects not related to agriculture, such as energy, housing, transportation and SMEs.
If Land Bank is primarily for agriculture, why do these other sectors get 2/3 of the loan portfolio? And why is it that only 12 percent go to small farmers and fisherfolk?
Starting point
Who should take the leadership, responsibility and accountability for agricultural credit? One can say it is the Agriculture Secretary. But without the support of the Secretaries in the Cabinet Economic Cluster, it would be unfair to place the entire burden on him. For example, the Finance Secretary influences financial institutions while the Governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas provides the lending environment for agricultural credit to take off.
Bacani has recommended that focus should be given to the Land Bank as a starting point. It should become a purely government bank with no more fiduciary responsibility to its private depositors. It can then take the necessary risks to service small farmers and fisherfolk.
But whether the private sector depositors are phased out gradually over time or not at all, steps should be immediately taken to significantly increase the 12 percent share of loans that goes to small farmers and fisherfolk.
Examples are the preparation of more crop-specific feasibility templates where small farmers can just fill in the specific information relevant to their unique situations. This will take the place of submitting full feasibility studies, which few small farmers are capable of doing.
We understand Land Bank is already doing this for malunggay in some areas today.
Another recommendation is that a larger staff be organized to help small farmers prepare their loan proposals as well as minimizing bank loan requirements.
At the Jan. 17 meeting, it was recommended that former Secretaries Javier and Bacani meet with the Land Bank President to discuss suggestions like this, headed by former bankers who wish to help. One such banker is Jun Deza, formerly Executive Vice President of Philippine National Bank and a current CAMP Director.
This kind of discussion should be conducted also with the Secretaries of the Cabinet Economic Cluster. Only with this systems approach to agriculture credit can we achieve agriculture development and inclusive growth.

LDA to convert agriculture land into residential areas

Instead of addressing the civic and urban issues of provincial metropolis, Lahore Development Authority (LDA) has decided to convert agricultural boundary of the historical city of Lahore into residential areas, which may become an environmental and urban disaster in future.
The move, if completed, will increase the hot zones in Lahore, which is already facing immense pressure of urbanization and commercialization for the past many years. Change of land use especially agricultural land into residential areas will deface the city besides causing severe environmental issues because more houses means more vehicles, more commercial areas, cutting of trees, etc.
Secondly, the move will also damage the supply line of essential vegetables, milk and chicken to the metropolitan city because majority of the poultry farms, milk production and vegetables are produced in the agriculture land around the city.
It means that if the LDA convert this precious agricultural land into residential zones then the production vegetables, milk and poultry products will be shifted to other cities and its prices will automatically increase and the ultimate burden will fall on citizens. Sources in LDA revealed that conversion of agricultural land into residential areas is the brain child of LDA’s Metropolitan Planning department. The sources said in 2004, LDA’s Metropolitan Department notified a master plan for Lahore (2004-2021) in which it clearly define residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural areas of the city.
They said the LDA’s Metropolitan Planning department has identified a project area comprising GT Road, BRB Canal, Hadyara Drain, Badian Road, Khaira Distributiory, Burki Road and Shalimar Link Road where all agricultural land will be converted to residential zones. The sources maintained that LDA needs to hold a public hearing before issuing a final notification and to fulfill this legal requirement, LDA’s Metropolitan Department has planned to hold a public hearing at Committee Room of LDA head office on January 29, 2015. The sources said holding a public hearing in committee room is just to fulfill the legal requirement because general public is not allowed to enter the LDA head office building without the consent or invitation and secondly the committee room is just for 20/30 persons. Sources said if the LDA is serious in getting public opinion over this project, it should hold a public hearing at a public place or at a hotel or any other such venue where citizens can come without any invitation and restriction.
On the other hand, civil society of Lahore is sharpening their swords to take LDA head on over this issue. Lahore Bachao Tehreek, Conservation Society and many other bodies have called a joint session to discuss the issue and plan a line of action to counter LDA and to stop it from kicking off this project, which they think will change the map of the historical city.
Seeking anonymity, a senior official of Environmental Protection Department (EPD) Punjab said LDA cannot change use of land without the consultation of EPD and other concerned departments. He said so far, LDA had not contacted EPD at any forum either for consultation or for approval.
Imrana Tiwana of Lahore Bachaoo Tehreek (LBT) said the civil society of Lahore has expressed serious reservations over this project and they will counter it at all forums. She said agricultural land is the earth cover of the city and it must be protected. Change of earth cover will result in hot zones, which will put adverse impacts on the environment as well as the already depleting underground water level of the provincial capital.
“Change in agricultural land to residential use will definitely affects the ecosystem and socio-economic conditions,” she said adding instead of turning agricultural land into residential, the LDA should promote integrating urban agriculture in city planning, supporting food projects and promoting innovative forms of multi-functional agriculture.
“Urbanization of cities always resulted in loss of agricultural land throughout the world and always result in a serious problem of reduced food production. The protection of agricultural land from unplanned development is essential to maintain the future productivity and efficiency of land,” said Shahid Imam, a senior citizen.
Kamil Khan Mumtaz, a renowned vocalist of social issues said this is an urgent call for all the civil society as rich agricultural land is being converted for luxury housing on the cost of the needs of homeless.
The scribe tried to contact LDA’s Director General Ahad Khan Cheema but neither his phone call nor text message was responded.

Vicious circles linking violence and hunger’ must end

26 January 2015 – Agriculture and food security must be treated as essential components of peacebuilding and conflict resolution, the head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said during a special meeting of the UN Peacebuilding Commission held at Headquarters today.
“Food security is an important foundation for peace, political stability and sustainable development. In the history of humanity, time and time again we have seen vicious circles linking violence and hunger – and these are conflicts that are not restricted by national borders,” FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said to participants today.
In addition to Mr. Graziano da Silva’s briefing, the meeting was also expected to hear opening remarks from the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, another briefing by the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support as well as an interaction with Member States.
In his remarks, the FAO Director-General emphasized that food security can be used as “a conflict prevention and mitigation tool” for the advancement of peace and security. Policies and actions on food security can not only build resilience and resolve conflicts; they can help prevent them, too.
“We cannot just wait for an emergency to react. To achieve food security, we need to act before the crisis. We cannot prevent a drought from happening, but we can prevent it from becoming famine,” he added.
Hunger kills far more people than war or terrorism, he noted during his speech. For example, between 2004 and 2009, an estimated 55,000 people a year lost their lives as a direct result of conflict or terrorism, while in Somalia alone, between 2010 and 2012 over 250,000 died due to famine caused by severe drought, Mr. Graziano da Silva said.
Meanwhile, the impact of conflicts in rural areas can be devastating for crop production, livestock and harvests and often causes the destruction of farm assets and household capital.
And the impact of conflicts on food security often lasts long after the violence has subsided, Mr. Graziano da Silva said.
As agriculture continues to be the primary way of life for the majority of people in post-conflict countries, rehabilitation and revival of agriculture in those areas, therefore, becomes crucial to alleviating poverty and ensuring overall development.
The FAO Director-General emphasized that “partnerships are crucial,” spotlighting that now more than ever countries need to work together to overcome the multiple, interconnected challenges. It is in this spirit of collaboration that FAO has been able to successfully carry out projects across the globe.
Additionally, with the crafting of new global sustainable development goals (SDGs) underway, “improved knowledge and understanding of the possible interplays between food security and human security will help shape more effective interventions and contribute to more lasting results,” Mr. Graziano da Silva said.

State agriculture committee highlights progress

A plan aimed at keeping more young people involved with family farming, restoring and increasing financial support for agriculture programs and renewing a push to encourage people to eat locally grown food are highlights of the 2014 annual report of the state Senate Agriculture Committee released Monday.
State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, chairwoman of the committee, said last year’s progress included repealing costly mandates that affect farmers.
She also cited the launch of initiatives such as “Young Farmers NY,” which aims to protect the state’s agriculture industry by providing young people with resources and incentives to enter careers in farming or agribusiness.
“Last year was extremely productive for our committee and I’m looking forward to us accomplishing even more in 2015 when it comes to continuing to grow agriculture and supporting New York’s hardworking farmers,” Mrs. Ritchie said in an emailed statement.
Other highlights in the report, which is available on the website, include:
■ Final passage of a bipartisan bill that directs the state agriculture commissioner to find ways to support aging farmers.
■ The adoption of a state budget that includes significant support for vital agricultural programs.
■ Final passage of legislation to increase the amount of locally grown and produced foods purchased by state agencies.
■ New efforts to protect people and animals from deadly diseases such as Eastern equine encephalitis, Lyme, West Nile and rabies through increased funding for preventive programs.
■ Creation of the “21st Century Workgroup for Disease Elimination and Reduction,” a group composed of experts in diseases, infection and public health charged with pushing for the development of effective vaccines against diseases.
Mrs. Ritchie first was named chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee in 2011 and has served as its leader since then. In this role, she has led the charge to increase funding for critical agriculture programs by more than $21 million above the governor’s recommendation, she said.

New Task Force to Improve Agriculture Risk Management Programmes

The Manitoba government is establishing a new task force to evaluate existing programmes and policies used to help farmers recover from climate-related challenges such as flooding, with the goal of identifying more comprehensive and sustainable programmes, Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, said Minister Ron Kostyshyn.
"Manitoba's farmers have told us existing agricultural programs can't adequately address these climate-related challenges, especially as they become more common," said Minister Mr Kostyshyn.
"We are following through on our commitment to review existing programs and consider options that will be more predictable, comprehensive and sustainable for farmers and governments. I look forward to hearing from Manitobans as part of the task force's work on this important issue."
The Agriculture Risk Management Review Task Force will be chaired by Arborg-area farmer Bill Uruski and include five additional members to represent the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation, a financial institution, farmers and others with expertise in this area.
Its work will include:
  • holding a series of public consultations to receive input from Manitoba farmers, organizations and other stakeholders;
  • evaluating the effectiveness of current risk management tools, including production insurance, to help manage and recover from climate-related challenges;
  • identifying gaps in existing policies and programs;
  • recommending new options to improve farmers' ability to manage climate-related risks; and
  • identifying ways to shift government support from ad hoc assistance to planned and predictable programs.
"Living in the Interlake, we have also experienced many of the same challenges that farmers living in other parts of the province have faced in recent years," said Mr Uruski. "It's certainly timely to undertake a review of all available business risk management tools, while seeking input and advice from farmers, insurance policyholders and other stakeholders."
The Manitoba government first committed to review existing agricultural risk management tools and their ability to assist farmers dealing with climate-related challenges in the most recent throne speech, the minister said.
Public consultations are expected to begin this spring, and a final report with recommendations to government will be submitted by the end of the year, the minister said.
Information about the task force's public consultations will be available at and at local MAFRD GO Offices once dates and locations are finalised.
TheCropSite News Desk

Minneapolis picks up urban agriculture tips from Cuba

Two Minneapolis City Council aides were part of a Twin Cities group that recently spent more than a a week in Cuba, visiting co-ops and compost sites and picking up information on urban agriculture.
Robin Garwood, a policy aide for Council Member Cam Gordon and Ben Somogyi, policy aide for Council Member Lisa Bender, said the trip offered a chance to get a new perspective on agriculture efforts championed by both council members. The two joined 10 other people, several of them with Stone's Throw Urban farm, on the "food sovereignty" trip organized by think tank Food First.
The nine-day visit included visits to urban farms in and outside of Cuba's capital city, Havana. 
Garwood said the trip was organized months before the U.S. announced it was taking formal steps to open up relations between the two countries. It was selected because the country is known for innovation in how it grows and uses food, particularly in urban areas. For the last few decades, Garwood said, Cubans have been perfecting a system that uses very few pesticides or other chemicals, because they were unable to import them.
He said the Cubans he spoke with are interested in developing more of a self-sustaining, local food system.
"They want to reduce their imports, to the point they're not importing (much) food," he said.
Somogyi said Bender has been working on building up local opportunities for small-scale composting businesses, and the trip provided an up-close look at composting systems with a long history of success. Some of the stops on the tour included places that use worms for composting.
"Seeing what we could do to help have really good controls on allowing composting businesses in the city and also hearing what farmers are actually doing -- that, in particular was fascinating," he said. 
Minneapolis is rolling out a new compost program for residents this year. 
Somogyi funded the trip out of his own pocket, while Garwood covered half the expense. Gordon's office picked up about $2,000 of the tab. 
Both council staffers said they're working on a report on the trip that can be shared with other council members and local leaders. They said their observations from Cuba will be helpful in shaping city policies, including on the use of public land for community and market gardens.
Tracy Sides, the founder and executive director of Urban Oasis, a St. Paul sustainable food center, said the trip was a useful opportunity for food-focused leaders to get to know each other and share ideas about work that could be done in the Twin Cities.
She said Cuba has an "enviable" level of connection between neighborhood groups and local and national government when it comes to growing and sharing food -- and she'd like to see a closer connection at home.
"I do feel like there is some really great energy around strengthening our local and regional food system that is coalescing," she said.

Agriculture Will Soon Overtake Oil

The minister of agriculture and rural development, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, has boasted that the agricultural sector would topple the nation's oil sector in no distant time.
According to him, this is feasible because the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) which is a brainchild of President Goodluck Jonathan's Transformation Agenda, is geared towards ushering in agricultural sector-led economic growth.
Speaking on the AGRIFEST 2015, an international Agriculture Exhibition organised by his ministry to aid the sector in achieving green revolution, Adesina said that as the price of crude oil plummets, he is convinced that agriculture will be the new mainstay of the nation's economy.
The minister reeled out the achievements of his ministry to include the recent disbursement of N122million grant to 27 Nagropreneurs across the six geo-political zones as a measure of boosting agricultural production and also promoting its newly established project, the Youth Employment in Agriculture Programme (YEAP).
Noting that Nigeria's greater future for inclusive growth lies in agriculture, he said food production had risen massively and as a nation, Nigeria has produced additional 21 metric tons of food within the last three years.
Adesina listed other milestones of the ministry under him to include the establishment of Marketing Corporation, nationwide census of farmers and supply of subsidised fertilisers to 14million farmers.
Explaining that the elaborate event is aimed at creating a distinct platform that will further boost the country's agriculture, he added that it will also keep Nigerians abreast of the latest evolution in technologies and food production.
Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan commended the minister at the event, saying agriculture is now the lifeline for Nigeria.
He said, "As crude oil prices decline, we must create new wealth from the richness of our soils, the vastness of our rivers and the abundance of our cheap labour. We will produce more, and we will industrialise the agricultural sector.
"When I appointed Dr Akinwumi Adesina as the minister of agriculture, I charged him to turn agriculture around. My vision was clear - turn agriculture away from being a sector for managing poverty to one for creating wealth. We now see agriculture as a business, not as a development programme".
Noting that the rice revolution is taking place across the country, the president said while high quality Nigerian rice is now competing favourably with imported rice in the markets, rice importers cannot hold the country hostage.
He said, "Nigeria, our dear country will not be held hostage by rice importers. There will be no sacred cows under my watch. All those owing Nigeria on rice import duties must pay."
"Rice farmers across the country have a new lease of life, due to the transformation taking place in the sector. Over 6 million rice farmers have received improved rice seed varieties, boosting domestic rice production by an additional 7 million metric tons."
"Our rice millers have taken advantage of these new opportunities, and the number of integrated rice mills has expanded from 1 (one) at the beginning of this administration, to 24 today. And they are all here today. I celebrate you all. I eat Nigerian rice and can tell you it is better than imported rice".

What they don’t tell us about African agriculture

One of the myths outlined in the report The Poor Are Getting Richer and Other Dangerous Delusions that Global Justice Now (previously WDM) released last week to coincide with the Davos World Economic Forum, is that Africa needs our help. A variation of this myth, that African agriculture needs help from rich Western countries, is constantly spun out by the media, investors, agribusiness companies and other transnationals. It sometimes feels like we’re being forced to participate in a modified version of the BBC Radio 4 show The Unbelievable Truthwhere panellists have to give a lecture full of lies while smuggling a handful of truths past the other players. In the case of the ‘Africa needs our help’ narrative, the game is played so that a handful of truths are used to smuggle some hugely significant lies past unsuspecting governments, NGOs and civil society.
Take the issue of agricultural production in Africa. The truths that the mainstream narrative pick out are that one in four people in Sub-Saharan Africa are undernourished, and that Africa has the lowest levels of agricultural productivity in the world, with extremely low levels of inputs like fertilizers, improved seeds and irrigation. It is also true that high population growth rates, high levels of poverty, poor infrastructure and low levels of investment have compounded the problem and made food difficult to access for millions of people.
But from these truths, the mainstream narrative moves to a false conclusion: that with the financial and technical help provided by rich countries and international development agencies – such as the $10 billion of ‘responsible private investments’ committed through the New Alliance to date – employment and food production will receive a huge boost and Africa will finally be able to feed itself.
It is certainly true that millions of people in Africa suffer from hunger and malnutrition, but nonetheless this narrative is partial and misleading. It is missing context, crucially failing to ask why this has happened in a continent that used to be self-sufficient in food in the 1960s. There are two main reasons for this, and they point to a very different solution to the problem of African poverty.
Firstly Africa’s agricultural production was designed during the colonial era to benefit rich countries in the North with their enormous appetite for raw materials and luxury (non-staple) foods. In 2011, the top five exports out of Africa (by value) were cocoa beans, coffee, cotton, rubber and tobacco; more useful for satisfying rich consumers than feeding poor communities.
Secondly, African countries have been forced to deregulate their trade by rich countries and financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. These institutions continue to lend money to developing countries while encouraging them to privatize public services and deregulate their economies. So, countries end up importing staple foods like wheat, palm oil, maize, sugar and soya-bean oil – crops largely produced by rich countries in the North, which can afford to heavily subsidize their agricultural sector. They have also opened up Africa to agribusiness companies that are rapidly increasing their control of resources such as land, water and labour.
Mainstream media, transnational corporations and government agencies tell us that Africa needs GM technology and chemical fertilizers to increase crop yields. What they don’t tell us is that the use of GM seeds actually leads to falling crop yields in the long term, and the increased use of pesticides and herbicides.
More and more evidence has been pouring in which shows that sustainable agriculture – or agroecology – can produce yields comparable to, and often larger than, industrial agriculture. But that’s not all. There are also huge positive knock-on effects of agroecology, such as increasing biodiversity, increasing income and employment opportunities, reducing the gender gap, improving health and nutrition, and helping to mitigate climate change.
Whether it’s by practising agroforestry, rice-duck farming or organic farming techniques, the evidence in support of agroecology is now indisputable. What we need is the political will to challenge the myth of corporate-controlled agriculture through reform of the aid system, opposition to unfair trade agreements, and by promoting the principles of agroecology and food sovereignty to help small-scale farmers regain control of Africa’s food system.
Ian Fitzpatrick
In February Global Justice Now will be publishing a report on agroecology in Africa outlining its benefits, the barriers preventing agroecology from being more widely adopted, and a set of policy proposals to overcome these barriers.

Former PPA Chairman hails Railways Minister

Former Chairman of Pakistan Poultry Association (PPA) Abdul Basit has hailed the efforts of Federal Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafiq for rehabilitation of Pakistan Railways. In a statement issued here Monday, Abdul Basit said that in the recent past, Pakistan Railways was a sorry tale of mismanagement and was eating up billion of rupees annually from the national exchequer.

Pakistan Railways is one of the largest institutions of the country as it is the most important source of passengers and industrial goods movement across the country. It is estimated that annually 65 million or daily around 178,000 passengers travel while petroleum products, oil, wheat, coal, fertilisers, cement, sugar and thousands other items distributed through Pakistan Railways and despite all this, Pakistan Railways was facing the worst loss but now situation was quite different because of well planned policies of Federal Railway Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq.

Both public and private sectors of Pakistan are on the same page that all the 22 Public Sector Enterprises (PSEs) that are eating up near 600 billion annually should be restructured so that this money which is going into the drain at the moment could be utilised for the betterment of the country.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2015

Sunday, 25 January 2015


A Bio fertilizer is a substance which contains living microorganisms which, when applied to seed, plant surfaces, or soil, colonizes the rhizosphere or the interior of the plant and promotes growth by increasing the supply or availability of primary nutrients to the host plant.Bio-fertilizers add nutrients through the natural processes of nitrogen fixation, solubilizing phosphorus, and stimulating plant growth through the synthesis of growth-promoting substances. Bio-fertilizers can be expected to reduce the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The microorganisms in bio-fertilizers restore the soil's natural nutrient cycle and build soil organic matter. Through the use of bio-fertilizers, healthy plants can be grown, while enhancing the sustainability and the health of the soil. Since they play several roles, a preferred scientific term for such beneficial bacteria is plant-growth promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR). Therefore, they are extremely advantageous in enriching soil fertility and fulfilling plant nutrient requirements by supplying the organic nutrients through microorganism and their byproducts. Hence, bio-fertilizers do not contain any chemicals which are harmful to the living soil.
Bio-fertilizers provide eco-friendly organic agro-input and are more cost-effective than chemical fertilizers. Bio-fertilizers such as Rhizobium, Azotobacter, Azospirilium and blue green algae (BGA) have been in use a long time. Rhizobiuminoculant is used for leguminous crops. Azotobacter can be used with crops like wheat, maize, mustard, cotton, potato and other vegetable crops. Azospirillum inoculations are recommended mainly for sorghum, millets, maize, sugarcane and wheat. Blue green algae belonging to a general cyanobacteriagenus, Nostoc or Anabaena or Tolypothrix or Aulosira, fix atmospheric nitrogen and are used as inoculations for paddy crop grown both under upland and low-land conditions. Anabaena in association with water fern Azolla contributes nitrogen up to 60 kg/ha/season and also enriches soils with organic matter.
Other types of bacteria, so-called phosphate-solubilizing bacteria, such as Pantoea agglomerans strain P5 or Pseudomonas putida strain P13, are able to solubilize the insoluble phosphate from organic and inorganic phosphate sources. In fact, due to immobilization of phosphate by mineral ions such as Fe, Al and Ca or organic acids, the rate of available phosphate (Pi) in soil is well below plant needs. In addition, chemical Pi fertilizers are also immobilized in the soil, immediately, so that less than 20 percent of added fertilizer is absorbed by plants. Therefore, reduction in Pi resources, on one hand, and environmental pollutions resulting from both production and applications of chemical Pi fertilizer, on the other hand, have already demanded the use of new generation of phosphate fertilizers globally known as phosphate-solubilizing bacteria or phosphate bio-fertilizers.
Since a bio-fertilizer is technically living, it can symbiotically associate with plant roots. Involved microorganisms could readily and safely convert complex organic material in simple compounds, so that plants are easily taken up. Microorganism function is in long duration, causing improvement of the soil fertility. It maintains the natural habitat of the soil. It increases crop yield by 20-30%, replaces chemical nitrogen and phosphorus by 25%, and stimulates plant growth. It can also provide protection against drought and some soil-borne diseases. Bio-fertilizers are cost-effective relative to chemical fertilizers. They have lower manufacturing costs, especially regarding nitrogen and phosphorus use.

Punjab to launch revamping project soon

All necessary arrangements have been finalised to launch a project of revamping agriculture extension services aimed at tracking it on modern lines costing Rs 113.655 million across the Punjab. Under the present set up, agriculture extension is confronted with multifarious challenges like capacity of the extension workers, diversification, intensification, value addition and land fragmentation. Under the circumstances, the use of ICT has been considered appropriate to improve extension services in Punjab.

Official sources told Business Recorder here on Saturday that the objective of the project was to improve the Extension Delivery System through introduction of innovation techniques of information and communication technologies (ICT). The specific objectives of the project are to an Agriculture Extension ICT hub will be established to increase the reach of farmers towards modern package of technology for exploration and integration of ICT resources like SMS, website and call centres to facilitate farmers through this Agriculture Extension ICT hub and to establish a dedicated system of monitoring of agriculture extension workers, transforming of existing reporting system of agriculture extension to e-reporting, dissemination of latest crop production technologies through district and provincial level centres and provision of missing broadband internet facilities to district, tehsil and markaz level extension offices.

The overall objective of Agriculture sector was to increase productivity, increase efficiency of agriculture extension system and to improve the extension delivery system through suitable information and communication technology. Under the programme ICT centres will be established in agriculture offices through the provision of laptop and multimedia, sources added.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2015

WGA urges government to form 'Commodity Export Board'

Wheat Growers Association (WGA) welcoming the government decision of allowing export of wheat and wheat products by giving a subsidy of Rs 6 billion has proposed that the government should constitute a 'Commodity Export Board' with the representation of public and private sector on it which should take decisions of export of any agricultural commodity in future.

Wheat Growers Association (WGA) President Chaudhry Hamid Malhi while talking to Business Recorder here on Saturday said that though they welcome this decision of the government but still it was untimely and delayed. He said that we should have taken this decision some months back when the rates of wheat were high in the international markets. He proposed setting up of a board which should take a decision in such matters instead of solely by the government. He said when the government decides exporting wheat it takes time to reach the summaries to the top slot for getting a nod and some time decision came at a delayed and wrong time as happened in case of wheat.

He said Pakistan's wheat is far better than other countries in standards and quantity of gluten is also high in our wheat as compared to wheat of other countries. He said this helps making a 'chapati' easier. He said whenever wheat is imported from abroad our millers use 90 per cent of the local wheat otherwise flour produced by imported wheat could not be used for making 'chapati.' He said as Pakistan was not present in the international market as exporter so there are no benchmarks for our wheat in that market or an additional price.

He said that Pakistan should take a decision to export at least 400,000 to 500,000 tons of wheat every year as it would help developing high priced market for a higher standard wheat, Malhi was of the opinion. Malhi, a progressive farmer of wheat and rice, said that we can fetch better price for our wheat as we fetched in case of our rice. Other rice is sold at US $450 per tons while our Basmati rice is sold at US $1400 per tons. He said that Pakistan should target those markets where 'chapati' is taken as they could give us premium price for our wheat.

He also proposed that the Board should be constituted with representation to private sector on it which should decided when to export our agricultural commodities, in what quantity and in which markets to get premium price. Constant export could create better demand and premium markets for our special wheat, Malhi concluded.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2015

Farmers advised to stop irrigating just-sowed wheat crop

Farmers should stop irrigating just sowed wheat crop keeping in view the expected rain in agriculture plain of the country. "The upcoming rain is beneficiary for all Rabi crops," according to the Met office farmers' advisory, suggesting the wheat crop is in growing stages.

Farmers of irrigated and Barani areas are urged to remove weeds from the fields with a view to help the standing crop utilise soil moisture fully. "Removing weeds from the standing crops is very important as weeds utilise moisture and food which may be utilised by the crop," the office said. The office warned the farmers of yield loss if weeds stayed growing in the fields. "As a result considerable loss in yield occurs every year," it added.

It said farmers should undertake removing of weeds either manually or through using weedicides to get rid of the unwanted plants from their standing crops. Normal wind was expected to prevail in most of the agricultural plains of the country, it said.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2015


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