Genetically modified crops imperative to boost agri productivity

SAHIWAL - The agriculture experts and scientists have termed the adoption of modern agricultural technology vital to improve the productivity of agriculture in the country, saying that Pakistan desperately needs innovations like biotechnology to address challenges in agriculture.
“After the introduction of hybrid maize during the 1990s, farmers have gradually shifted to hybrid maize from traditional/Open Pollinated Varieties (OPVs) as hybrid maize has increased production from a mere 30 maunds/acre to 80-120 maunds/acre. This production can be increased further by using heat-tolerant, disease-free, and genetically modified (insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant) crop varieties as well as improving farming practices,” they said while speaking at a seminar on “New avenues for maize and sorghum improvement”.
The seminar, organised by Maize and Millets Research Institute (MMRI) Yousafwala-Sahiwal, was held here at a local hotel. The objective of the seminar was to highlight the potential of available technologies that can help country enhance the production of corn/maize crop and to aware the stakeholders especially farmers about sweet sorghum crop in general and its uses in particular. A good number of farmers, government officials and representatives of various companies, both local and multinationals, also attended the seminar. Media representatives were also present on the occasion.
The speakers said that maize, the third biggest food crop of Pakistan after wheat and rice, is a major crop in a large number of countries because of its multiple uses and high yield as compared to other crops, adding that its yield is even higher than wheat and rice. They said, in Pakistan, maize is planted on an estimated area of 1 million hectares with an annual production of over 3.5 million metric tonnes and productivity of 3,670 kg/ha. They informed that more than half of the total corn produced in Pakistan is used as raw material for growing poultry feed industry, one fourth for industrial starch and rest for human consumption and fodder for livestock.
Calling maize ‘an opportunity for all’, Dr Abid Mehmood, Director Cotton Ayub Agriculture Research Institute, said that maize is a profitable crop for farmers and if its production can be increased further maize-based industry would grow, which in turn would generate much-needed employment opportunities. “Genetically modified (GM) corn is being adopted across the globe and Pakistani farmers can also benefit a lot by using GM corn as it can significantly reduce the losses caused by various insects pests and & weeds and thus cost of production would come down,” he said.
Dr Abdul Hameed, Director MMRI Yousafwala-Sahiwal claimed that crops, developed through agri research, has made Pakistan self-sufficient in food. He called upon the government to review agriculture policies and ensure sufficient water for farming by constructing big water reservoirs. He said that because govt research institutions had limited resources so the private sector should be encouraged to take the research activities to the next level so that better crop varieties could be developed.
Sorghum Botanist Rai Amjad Ali Khan, in his presentation, informed the participants that sweet sorghum can be used for producing environment-friendly fuel “bio-ethanol”, adding that the sugar mills, which close after sugarcane crushing gets over, can become functional by crushing the sweet sorghum.
Other speakers of the seminar, besides others, included Associate Maize Botanist Muhammad Rafique Dogar and Assistant Research Officer Mrs Khunsa Khakwani. The topics of the seminar were: Heat stress tolerance studies in maize; Prospects of genetically modified corn in Pakistan; Adoption of maize hybrids in Pakistan; Role of doubled haploids in maize breeding; Role of zinc and sulphur in corn and sweet sorghum: ‘a potential energy crop for bio-ethanol production’.

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