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Technologies for increasing wheat crop               
By M. Ather Mahmood & Dr A.D. Sheikh

Pakistan is predominantly an agricultural country. However, the yield of almost all the crops obtained is far less than their potential.

The cop production technologies developed through research are there but their adoption remains limited. This requires an efficient and effective information flow about agricultural technologies from the researchers to the farmers.

Wheat is the country’s most important agricultural commodity and contributes 13.7 per cent to the value-added in agriculture and three per cent to the GDP. Its share in the total cropped area is 37 per cent.

Being staple food grain, it contributes 42 per cent of total calories required per capita per day. The wheat straw is also important as fodder. Consequently, it occupies a central position in agricultural economy and policies.

A wide gap exists between the national average yield (about 2586 kg/ha), progressive farmers’ yield (about 5000 kg/ha) and potential yield (about 6800 kg/ha).

Pakistan has been a net importer of wheat for the past several decades. This situation is not enviable. It is believed that the future increase in wheat production will come through yield enhancement since land resources will decline.

The area under wheat should preferably be decreased to accommodate pulses and oilseed crops to overcome the gap in their supply and demand. Efforts to increase the wheat productivity have always been the concern of the researchers who have developed technologies for its production.

The agricultural department publishes brochures and booklets for recommended production technologies for each crop. These are considered as recommended technological package.

The technological package includes varietals selection, land preparation practices, sowing schedule, seed rate, fertilisers, irrigation schedule, weed control, insect pest and disease control and harvesting. By adopting these recommended technologies, the farmers can get higher yield.

The Technology Transfer Institute (PARC), Faisalabad has undertaken a study to assess the adoption of wheat production technologies in the rice-wheat and mixed cropping zones of the Punjab.

The survey was conducted in three important districts of the rice-wheat zone namely Sialkot, Gujranwala and Sheikhupura and three districts of mixed zone namely Faisalabad, Jhang and the T.T. Sigh. A total of 180 wheat growers were randomly interviewed (90 from each zone) for the collection of requisite data.

The main findings of the survey are summarized as follows: Land preparation is the first and important activity to be performed for wheat production. The study results reveal that about 83 per cent of farmers prepared the land as recommended by experts.

Crop production largely depends on the choice of variety. The seed must be healthy, cleaned and treated to get higher yield. If the choice and practices are right as recommended by the experts for that particular area, then there will definitely be higher yield.

About 78 per cent of the respondents sow the recommended varieties. However, the major reliance is still on Inqilab 91.

Timely sown wheat gives higher yield and delayed sowing affects the yield. The wheat experts said that one day delay after November 20 reduced the yield from 15 to 20 kg per acre. The problem of delayed wheat sowing in the rice-wheat zone is due to late rice harvesting.

Similarly, the reason behind late planting of wheat in the mixed cropping zone is the late vacation of the field mainly by sugarcane crop. The survey results reveal that only 54 per cent of the respondents sow wheat in time.

Farm experts emphasise the practice of line sowing rather broadcast method. However, farmers generally practice broadcast method for wheat in order to save time and resources.

The survey results highlight the same fact that only 27 per cent of the growers practice line sowing as per recommendation of the department.

The recommended seed rate for timely wheat sowing i.e., before November 20 is 50kg per acre. If the sowing is delayed to December, then the recommended seed rate is 70kg per acre.

The farm level practice is very contrary to it, the farmers generally apply seed 40kg per acre for timely sowing and little late sowing, and 50kg per acre for December sowing. Only 45 per cent of the farmers apply seed as per department recommendation.

Fertiliser is a key input for better crop production. The timely and balanced use of fertiliser increases the yield by five to 10 maunds per acre. The farmers of survey area generally apply nitrogen and phosphorous fertilisers but they don’t apply the potash fertiliser.

The survey results reveal that only two per cent of the growers apply fertiliser according to the recommendation of the department. The obvious reason for low fertiliser application is its price.

Wheat crop generally requires three to four irrigations at different stages of growth. There are three critical stages i.e., first irrigation normally 20-25 days after sowing, second at boot stage and third at milk stage of grain development. About 88 per cent of the respondents apply irrigation as recommended by experts..

Weed control is important to get higher yield of wheat crop. It is estimated that weeds reduce the yield by 30 to 40 per cent. There are about 75 per cent of the respondents who apply weedicides.

The results of the study clearly indicate that some recommended technologies like land preparation, varieties, irrigation and weed control are well adopted while others like sowing time, sowing method, seed rate and fertiliser application are not so well followed.

Following are some suggestions to improve wheat productivity based on survey results.

* The majority of the farmers fail to timely sow their crop due to number of reasons. There is serious decline of yield due to late planting. We should develop technologies to minimise this problem.

*Similarly, sowing method and seed rate of the majority of the farmers are not as per recommendation of the agricultural department. So, there is strong need to increase the rate of adoption of these technologies.

*The application of fertiliser is the lowest among all the wheat production technologies. The reasons of low application need to be seriously reviewed and properly tackled.

*The adoption of weed control practices is high among the sampled farmers. Efforts should be made to further improve the weed control practices.

*Improve awareness about the recommended technologies.

Courtesy: The DAWN

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