technologies in farming
By Zafar Samdani
PRESSURE on the productivity of agriculture has been
increasing the world over because of the rising population in
many countries, and Pakistan, with its explosion of
population, has been feeling the pinch more intensely than
many other nations.
count has gone up from about 50 million people to 150 million
in the years between 1960 and 2005. The populationís food
needs cannot be met by traditional methods and inputs of
farming any more because land is required to produce
substantially more than before while traditional practices
were required to cater for limited populations.
In the four and half decades referred to above, the
performance of the countryís agriculture has been regularly
criticized but not really for cogent reasons because the
sector has shown growth of about three percent per year. This
has been achieved mainly because of attention to inputs,
mechanization of the sector and to some extent, improved crop
management though admittedly improvements could have been
Successive governments have accorded high priority to
agriculture but lack of continuity in policies and often,
unimaginative policies have blocked the potential of the
sector. Still, Pakistanís agriculture has not done badly
because constraints have been overwhelming.
This rate of progress is no more sufficient to feed people.
Considerably more produce is now needed from the farming
sector. On the other hand, per acre availability of
agriculture land has declined; water resources have also
This situation has inspired agriculture scientists to
undertake intensive research to increase productivity of land,
minimize use of rapidly shrinking resources and, in the
process, find a better deal for the tillers of the land to
meet the challenges of present times.
answer over the last about two decades has been conservation
technologies mainly comprising laser levelling, Zero Tillage
and Bed and Furrow cultivation. These technologies were
introduced in Pakistan over a decade back but their adoption
has been slow, indeed due to reluctance in the initial years.
The government did not pay them any attention with the result
that farmers tuned to traditional cultivation, were left cold
by prospects of change.
The Zero Tillage (ZT) saves expense and energy of farmers to
the extent that the cost of land preparation is reduced by
about Rs2,500 per ha, consumption of diesel is made more
efficient by about 50 litres per ha, water is conserved by
20-25 per cent and yield is boosted by up to 20 per cent.
One of the banes of Pakistanís agriculture is late sowing
which, in the case of wheat, reduces produce. Conservation
technologies enable farmers to undertake cultivation on time
and ensure that the next crop is not delayed by factors other
than conditions outside the scope of management by human
beings like extreme and unfavourable weather.
Further, while the traditional system of broadcast sowing
limits plant population, the ZT increases the number of plants
in the land. These two developments, uniform and timely sowing
automatically enhance quantity of produce from the land. The
usefulness of the ZT cannot be overemphasized in a country
with rapidly shrinking water resources and which needs to
produce much more than before.
Similarly, the Bed and Furrow (B&F) planting has a positive
impact on wheat and cotton crops. While its affect on yield is
relative less, about 10 per cent productivity increase, water
is conserved to about 30 per cent. It restricts crusting of
soil and gives land longevity for productive cultivation.
Cotton sown on beds provides stronger roots to plants, uses
less water and increases the size of the crop.
The technology was developed by the UN organization CIMMYT in
Mexico where nearly 90 per cent of wheat on irrigated land is
now grown on beds most rewardingly; laser levelling is of New
Zealandís origin. Pakistan has successfully indigenized these
systems. Unfortunately, Pakistan still has only about 6,000
acres of wheat under B&F system.
The Laser Levelling has, however, caught on though mainly in
Punjab province because of the interest government has taken
in its promotion with an approximately Rs1,000 million project
which is currently being implemented as joint undertaking by
farmers and the government of the province.
The Laser levelling equipment is being provided to farmers
under the project. Its propagation would hopefully go a long
way towards increasing produce, enhancing farmerís income,
counter poverty (that is turning rampant in rural parts of the
country because of low income from land for small farmers and
tenants) and generally has a positive impact on the
agriculture of Pakistan.
The laser technology, besides having the same rewarding impact
on land and profitability for farmers, has the added advantage
of increasing cultivated area by eliminating dykes and
ditches. All these technologies reduce production costs,
enhance efficiency of land, minimize labour for irrigation and
sowing and conserve water resources.
Precision land levelling has been described as a process of
grading and smoothing of land to uniform plane surface that
Ďminimizes cost of production, ensures better degree of
cultivation accuracy in shortened time, saves irrigation
water, ascertains uniform seed germination, increases
fertilizer efficiency and resultantly, enhances crop yieldsí.
Irrigation time is almost halved by the process; cropped area
is extended by about two percent.
It is in view of these benefits for agriculture that the
Punjab government has come up with a project to provide 1, 500
laser units in irrigated parts of the province. Private sector
has also been involved in the project to improve service
delivery and build the capacity of farmers and service
providers for sustainable technology transfer.
These technologies are exactly what Pakistan needs if a
genuine effort is to be made for meeting the nationís food
from with in the country. However, what is happening is far
from satisfactory. Availability of machinery at inexpensive
rates needs to be ensured for the largest number of farmers is
to covert to them.
majority of farmers is hesitant in abandoning traditional
practices and moving in to areas they regard as unknown and
view with suspicion unless the results of these technologies,
for that matter, any other developments, methods and
techniques of sowing are convincingly communicated to them.
The government should consequently back the programme with
extensive and continuous training of farmers and persuade them
to convert to these technologies.
There is also the need for supporting the production of the
needed equipment at a cost affordable for farmers. The bulk of
the members of the farming community that has made the shift
are big landlords but considering that a large percentage
represents small farmers, the importance of inexpensive
machinery with maintenance underwritten by producers is
essential and vital for wide adoption of conservation
But more important than any other aspect is a comprehensive
and coordinated plan for propagating their use. Laser
levelling is being supported by Punjab government but other
provinces also need to undertake its induction in the fields
on a priority basis. As for other technologies, they have not
been promoted affectively even in Punjab despite the fact that
planners and managers of the sector are aware of their
usefulness for agriculture, the mainstay of the province.
The Zero Tillage is gaining ground but, as statistics show, at
an extremely lethargic pace while Bed and Furrow system has
been left almost totally ignored. The onus for failure of
their widespread use rests with both big land owners and the
government. Unless the former quickly adopt them and the later
comes up with plans and projects for their introduction across
the country without further delay, they would be failing in
doing their duty towards Pakistanís agriculture, meeting the
food needs of the population and, as the technologies offer
better income to farmers, to work for the amelioration of
Source: The DAWN