Posts Tagged ‘Pakistan’

Crop sensors sharpen nitrogen management for wheat in Pakistan

By Abdul Hamid, Ansaar Ahmed and Imtiaz Hussain

Wheat researcher with Green Seeker at Wheat Research Institute Sakrand, Sind Province, Pakistan. Photo: Sarfraz Ahmed

ISLAMABAD (CIMMYT) – Pakistani and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) scientists are working with wheat farmers to test and promote precision agriculture technology that allows the farmers to save money, maintain high yields and reduce the environmentally harmful overuse of nitrogen fertilizer.

Wheat is planted on more than 9 million hectares in Pakistan each year. Of this, 85 percent is grown under irrigation in farming systems that include several crops.

Farmers may apply nearly 190 kilograms of nitrogen fertilizer per hectare of wheat, placing a third of this when they sow and the remainder in one-to-several partial applications during the crop cycle. Often, the plants fail to take up and use all of the fertilizer applied. More precise management of crop nutrients could increase farmers’ profits by saving fertilizer with no loss of yield, as well as reducing the presence of excess nitrogen that turns into greenhouse gases.

Precision nutrient management means applying the right source of plant nutrients at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place. CIMMYT is working across the globe to create new technologies that are locally adapted to help farmers apply the most precise dosage of fertilizer possible at the right time, so it is taken up and used most effectively by the crop.

CIMMYT and the Borlaug Institute for South Asia (BISA) have developed the application “urea calculator” for cell phones. In this process, a Green Seeker handheld crop sensor quickly assesses crop vigor and provides readings that are used by the urea calculator to furnish an optimal recommendation on the amount of nitrogen fertilizer the wheat crop needs.

Tests with the crop sensor/calculator combination on more than 35 farmer fields during 2016 in Pakistan results showed that 35 kilograms of nitrogen per hectare could be saved without any loss in grain yield. This technology is being evaluated and demonstrated in Pakistan as part of the CIMMYT-led Agricultural Innovation Program (AIP), supported by the United States Agency for International Development in collaboration with Pakistan partners.

CIMMYT recently began work in four provinces of Pakistan, providing Green Seekers and training to AIP research, extension and private partners. Fifty-five specialists in all took part in training events held at the Wheat Research Institute Sakrand, Sind Province; the Rice Research Institute KSK, Punjab Province; and the Model Farm Service Center, Nowshera, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.

Training and new partnerships will help national partners to demonstrate and disseminate sustainable farming practices to wheat farmers throughout Pakistan.

This story was originally published on

Fast-tracking wheat seed deployment in remote Pakistan regions

Mike Listman

Nearly 10,000 smallholder farmers in marginal, far-flung areas of Pakistan are harvesting more, eating better, and earning cash from their wheat crops, as a result of a partnership that is working to offer widespread access to improved wheat seed and farming practices.

“The extra grain from the new varieties will be enough for my family for three additional months,” said farmer Khan Said of Swat, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan, as he surveyed his tawny, sun-kissed wheat field. He also hoped the extra straw from his crop would earn him about US $140.

In autumn-2014, participating farmers in 63 moderately-to-highly-food-insecure districts received a 25-kilogram bag of seed of the new varieties—enough to sow a quarter hectare and compare their performance with that of traditional varieties, as well as helping to grow more seed for redistribution. The new varieties are high-yielding and resist wheat rust, a fungal disease whose three forms—stem, leaf, and yellow rust—are found on as much as half of Pakistan’s wheat area and which constitute a rising threat to the crop.

“Our results show a yield advantage of more than 100% in harsh environments for the new varieties and, after just one season, farmers are attesting to significant improvements in their food security and livelihoods,” said Krishna Dev Joshi, CIMMYT wheat improvement specialist who is coordinating the contributions of 27 partners with this aim. “This proves how, with better access to seed of new varieties and technical support, Pakistani farmers can benefit from the latest wheat science and replace older, rust-susceptible varieties.”

According to Joshi, if half of the harvest from the new varieties were saved as seed, this could be sown on at least 30,000 hectares, producing enough additional seed to cover 1 million hectares in the third year with no extra costs, through farmer-to-farmer seed flow networks, and ultimately creating visible impacts in the project area. The follow-up surveys indicated an overwhelming acceptance of new wheat varieties, as over 87% of participating farmers saved their seeds to expand area under the varieties.

“Targeting smallholders, vulnerable people, and women-headed households has been seen as a good strategy to ensure food security and improve livelihoods,” said Joshi. “We’re moving forward on our vision to integrate the best wheat varieties with appropriate agronomic practices.”

Initiatives are now focusing on building capacity in various public and private sector partners for sustainable impact. Encouraged by the results, the National Rural Support Program (NRSP), a not-for-profit development organization established in 1991 that fosters a countrywide network of more than 200,000 grassroots organizations across 56 districts, has committed to make the activities described part of their regular program. Recently, the NRSP Board of Directors also approved setting up a subsidiary seed company to commercialize best wheat and other crop seed varieties through their networks. Joshi said that nearly 2,000 tons of seed, including basic seed of new wheat varieties, will be produced in the far-flung areas of Pakistan, and new partnerships have been developed for Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan, where agriculture research and extension needs extra support, to fast-track the spread of best practices from this work.

The activities and outputs are part of the Agricultural Innovation Project (AIP) for Pakistan, led by CIMMYT and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

Durum Wheat Production in Pakistan: Keeping up with Changing Demands

Krishna Dev Joshi, Mike Listman, Katelyn Roett, Attiq Ur Rehman, Tariq Saleem and Akhter Ali


Photo: Attiq Ur Rehman/CIMMYT

In response to rapidly-changing food preferences in Pakistan, including a latent unmet demand for pasta products, CIMMYT-Pakistan has been working to develop the country’s durum wheat market and varieties that satisfy the required grain quality attributes, in addition to high yields and disease resistance.

According a 2014 study by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Pakistan is urbanizing at an annual rate of 3 percent—the fastest pace in South Asia. “More Pakistanis are living in cities than ever before,” said Krishna Dev Joshi, CIMMYT wheat improvement specialist. “As a result, demand for durum wheat products like macaroni or spaghetti is rising. But farmers are not growing durum wheat because there is no a clear price advantage or assured markets. At the same time, private investors will not develop new milling facilities or markets without guarantees of durum wheat grain supplies from farmers.”

To help break the impasse, CIMMYT has been testing and evaluating 925 durum wheat lines in Pakistan since 2011, and identified 40 durum wheat lines as having appropriate combinations of high yield, protein, yellowness and sedimentation. The yield stability of lines across locations and years indicates that durum wheat could be grown in environments similar to those of the trial sites, increasing the chances for uptake of this new crop. “One challenge, though,” said Joshi, “is that durum yields were only slightly higher than those of bread wheat, posing a challenge for the uptake by farmers of durum wheat.”

Activating Durum Markets from the Ground Up

The Center also led a 2014 durum value chain study involving 85 respondents including farmers, millers, the processing industry, restaurants, seed companies, grain dealers and consumers across five locations. They were queried regarding their awareness of durum wheat, as well its production, usage and future prospects in Pakistan. “A complete lack of durum milling technology is the main obstacle to commercializing this crop,”  Joshi said.

Value chain actors themselves were only marginally aware of durum wheat and associated technologies. However, 60% of millers stated they would be willing to invest in durum wheat if it became an openly-traded commodity, policies fostered market price premiums, durum milling machinery could be acquired at subsidized rates and local and foreign manufacturers were linked.

For durum wheat production to take hold in Pakistan, milling technology would have to be adapted or farmers would have to find a niche in the international market. Government support is necessary in either case.

Despite these challenges, the durum wheat market is slowly being developed. The first national durum wheat workshop in Pakistan last September brought together farmers, millers, processing industries, dealers, seed companies, extension professionals, researchers and policy makers to share knowledge, experiences and ideas for a durum wheat value chain. The 10 best durum wheat lines are being evaluated in wheat trials across 9 locations right now.

From Seed to Pasta

With the change in behaviors regarding durum wheat, CIMMYT representatives including Joshi will take part 31 May-2 June, 2015 in the international conference “From Seed to Pasta and Beyond: a Sustainable Durum Wheat Chain for Food Security and Healthy Lives.”

The international conference brings together leading experts from the durum wheat/pasta production chain to exhibit their research in durum wheat production in relation to agronomy, physiology, genetic resources, breeding, genomics, marker-assisted selection, tolerance to abiotic and biotic stresses and technological quality and nutritional aspects related to milling and pasta production. The conference will highlight how multidisciplinary science and technology contributes to the current and future challenges faced by the durum wheat-pasta production chain, in relation to the main themes of EXPO 2015 in Milan: food security, sustainability, nutrition and climate change.

WHEAT and CIMMYT Remember Vital Legacy of Gender Specialist Paula Kantor

EL AIP MWG_ Paula_2-cropBATAN, Mexico (CIMMYT) CIMMYT is sad to announce the tragic death of our friend and respected colleague, gender and development specialist Paula Kantor.

Paula died on May 13, in the aftermath of an attack on the hotel where she was staying in Kabul, Afghanistan.

“We extend our deepest condolences to her family, friends and colleagues,” said Thomas Lumpkin, CIMMYT’s director general.

“Paula’s desire to help people and make lasting change in their lives often led her into challenging settings. Her dedication and bravery was much admired by those who knew her and she leaves a lasting legacy upon which future research on gender and food security should build.”

Click here to read more about Paula’s exciting and valuable life and legacy.

Men’s Roles and Attitudes: Key to Gender Progress

PaulaKantor-mrMike Listman

Gender research and outreach should engage men more effectively, according to Paula Kantor, CIMMYT gender and development specialist who is leading an ambitious new project to empower and improve the livelihoods of women, men and youth in wheat-based systems of Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Pakistan.

“Farming takes place in socially complex environments, involving individual women and men who are embedded in households, local culture and communities, and value chains — all of which are colored by expectations of women’s and men’s appropriate behaviors,” said Kantor, who gave a brownbag presentation on the project to an audience of more than 100 scientists and other staff and visitors at El Batán on 20 February. “We tend to focus on women in our work and can inadvertently end up alienating men, when they could be supporters if we explained what we’re doing and that, in the end, the aim is for everyone to progress and benefit.”

Funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the new project will include 14 village case studies across the three countries. It is part of a global initiative involving 13 CGIAR research programs (CRPs), including MAIZE and WHEAT. Participants in the global project will carry out 140 case studies in 29 countries; WHEAT and MAIZE together will conduct 70 studies in 13 countries. Kantor and Lone Badstue, CIMMYT’s strategic leader for gender research, are members of the Executive Committee coordinating the global initiative, along with Gordon Prain of CIP-led Roots, Tubers and Bananas Program, and Amare Tegbaru of the IITA-led Program on Integrated Systems for the Humid Tropics, with expert advisement from specialist Patti Petesch, who contributed to World Bank studies such as “On Norms and Agency” and “Voices of the Poor.

“The cross-CRP gender research initiative is of unprecedented scope,” said Kantor. “For WHEAT, CIMMYT, and partners, understanding more clearly how gendered expectations affect agricultural innovation outcomes and opportunities can give all of our research more ‘ooomph’, helping social and biophysical scientists to work together better to design and conduct socially and technically robust agricultural R4D, and in the end achieve greater adoption and impact.”

Seeking Out Unusual Partners

To that end, outcomes will include joint interpretation of results with CRP colleagues and national stakeholders, scientific papers, policy engagement and guidelines for integrating gender in wheat research-for-development, according to Kantor. “The research itself is important, but can’t sit on a shelf,” she explained. “We will devise ways to communicate it effectively to partners in CGIAR and elsewhere.”

Another, longer-term goal is to question and unlock gender constraints to agricultural innovation, in partnership with communities. Kantor said that male migration and urbanization are driving fundamental, global changes in gender dynamics, but institutional structures and policies must keep pace. “The increase in de facto female-headed households in South Asia, for example, would imply that there are more opportunities for women in agriculture,” she explained, “but there is resistance, and particularly from institutions like extension services and banks which have not evolved in ways that support and foster the empowerment of those women.”

“To reach a tipping point on this, CGIAR and the CGIAR Research Programs need to work with unusual partners — individuals and groups with a presence in communities and policy circles and expertise in fostering social change,” said Kantor. “Hopefully, the case studies in the global project will help us identify openings and partners to facilitate some of that change.”

Working in Challenging Settings

Kantor has more than 15 years of experience in research on gender relations and empowerment in economic development, microcredit, rural and urban livelihoods, and informal labor markets, often in challenging settings. She served four years as Director and Manager of the gender and livelihoods research portfolios at the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU) in Kabul. “AREU has influenced policy, for example, through its work on governance structures at the provincial and district levels,” Kantor said. “They will be a partner in the Afghan study.”

She added that working well in challenging contexts requires a complex combination of openness about study aims and content in communities, sensitivity and respect for relationships and protocol, careful arrangements for logistics and safety, diverse and well-trained study teams and being flexible and responsive. “Reflections on doing gender research in these contexts will likely be an output of the study.”

After her first month at CIMMYT, Kantor, who will be based in Islamabad, Pakistan, said she felt welcome and happy. “My impression is that people here are very committed to what they do and that research is really a priority. I also sense real movement and buy-in on the gender front. An example is the fact that, of all the proposals that could’ve been put forward for funding from BMZ, CIMMYT chose one on gender. That’s big.”

Pakistan Wheat Farmers Call for Quality Seed of the Right Varieties

Pakistani farmer (2)

A Pakistani farmer carries seed of a new wheat variety for on-farm testing. Photo: Anju Joshi

Krishna Dev Joshi, Katie Lutz, and Mike Listman

Lack of access to seed of improved wheat varieties is holding back harvests of smallholder wheat farmers in remote areas of Punjab, Pakistan, a group of farmers told representatives of seed companies, input dealers and research, extension and development organizations, at a workshop last fall in Chakwal, Punjab, Pakistan.

“Ninety-five percent of farmers in Pothwar, a semiarid region of bare and broken terrain, use farm-saved seed of outdated varieties, invariably with limited use of modern agricultural technologies and inputs, resulting in poor crop establishment and low yields,” said Krishna Dev Joshi, CIMMYT wheat improvement specialist based in Pakistan and who helped organize the workshop. “Their yields average only 0.6 tons per hectare, compared to progressive farmers in irrigated areas who harvest ten times that amount.”

Joshi explained that the same three wheat varieties cover 83 percent of the region and have been used for the past 24 years. “One of these, C591, is a variety that was recommended in 1934 and is still grown on about 14 percent of the region’s nearly 0.6 million hectares of wheat area.”

Seed companies and input suppliers tend to target larger-scale farmers and areas with higher average yields, where farmers are more likely to invest in seed of new varieties, fertilizer and other farm inputs.

But more than 70 percent of Pakistani wheat farmers are smallholders, cultivating between one and five hectares of land. They could greatly benefit from seed of appropriate, new wheat varieties. Many are ready to purchase seed but encounter obstacles, such as fraudulent dealers of fake “certified” seed or seed mixed with simple grain.

“Last year I bought a bag of seed labelled ‘Galaxy,’ a new, high-yielding variety,” said Haji Muhammad Aslam Ochallee, a farmer from Khushab District, “but the seed inside was of an entirely different variety.”

Pothwar’s problems reflect Pakistan’s overall food security challenge, according to Joshi. “A 2014 bulletin by the World Food Program shows that more than 27 million people in Pakistan are highly-to severely food insecure,” he said.

Activating the Wheat Seed Value Chain

As a part of the Agricultural Innovation Program (AIP) for Pakistan, a project funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), CIMMYT is working with the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC), the Barani Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) in Punjab, and seed companies and farmers to close the gaps in Punjab’s wheat seed value chain and address concerns voiced at the workshop.

“These included improved communication and coordination among research and extension agencies and better marketing of new wheat varieties to farmers,” Joshi explained. “Farmers recommended establishing village committees to choose and access seed of new varieties and help foster truth in labeling. They particularly called for strict punishment for those selling fake seed.”

AIP has already launched participatory varietal selection (PVS) trials in which farmers and researchers jointly evaluate 14 new, high-yielding, disease resistant wheat varieties of diverse genetic backgrounds on the farms of 65 smallholders across Pothwar.

With backstopping from companies and researchers, 52 Pothwar farmers have begun producing seed of nine new varieties in over 40 ha lands.

Finally, workshop participants forged an agreement that allows private seed companies to have access to pre-basic seed of public sector varieties for producing basic seeds — normally the duty of official agencies — with support from breeders and Pakistan’s Federal Seed Certification and Registration Department. This will speed the marketing of new varieties.