Rawalpindi   -  A three-day training workshop on Smart Potato Cultivation and Strategies for Value Chain Development commenced at Pir Mehr Ali Shah Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi (PMAS-AAUR), here on Monday, with an aim to address the challenges and strategies to enhance its cultivation by precision agriculture.

Dr. Muhammad Zaffar Iqbal Director General Ayub Agricultural Research Institute (AARI) was the chief guest while Prof. Dr. Qama-uz-Zaman was the guest of honor at the inaugural session.

Dr M Zaffar Iqbal said that due to the increase in potato usage in domestic and industrial sectors, its cultivation has become very popular in Pakistan in recent years. He said that according to the government’s current vision to improve nutrition for all, it could be one of the alternatives. Challenges still exist in terms of its production and value addition but government is working hard to address them as they have started to produce high-quality, virus-free and third-generation potato seed with the help of South Korea by using aeroponic technology which will enable Pakistan a self-sufficient in seed potatoes by mid-2022, he said.

Prof. Dr Qamar said that precision agriculture and other modern techniques for cultivation are not meant for some specific crops but with research and minor changes it can be beneficial for others also. He said that with the help of modern methods like precision agriculture the grower will not only be able to minimize the input cost but increase the output and quality of their products also. He further said that issues such as climate change, rapid growth in population, unemployment and economic condition of our country alerted us to innovate our agriculture sector on an emergency basis which could be achieved with the combined effort. At the end, he mobilized the participants to transfer and apply training’s knowledge in the field which will benefit them in reducing their production cost of their crops but will also increase the production also.

Earlier, in a keynote address, Dr Syed Ijaz-ul-Hassan, Director Potato Research Institute Sahiwal said that potato is an important and fourth major agricultural crop widely grown in different agro-climatic conditions of Pakistan having a significant contribution to national domestic consumption and food needs. Despite the ease in cultivation and fewer labor requirements, potato productivity in Pakistan is not yet promising as compared to neighboring India and Bangladesh.

While highlighting the issues in potato cultivation, he said that due to unavailability of local disease-free potato seed, the cultivators have to depend on costly imported seed. He said that issues like cold storage, poor capacity of growers and industrialists and price instability, have improved but we are still deficient compared to the neighboring countries.

Earlier, Dr. Muhammad Azam Khan Chairman Department of Horticulture, in his welcome address, hoped that this training workshop will equip the participants related to advanced innovative technologies for potato cultivation and industrial partners will be focused on value addition and value chain development etc.