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Increasing wheat productivity in the context of Pakistan's irrigated cropping systems: A view from the farmers' field

Author: Byerlee, D.
Author: Hobbs, P.R.
Author: Khan, B.R.
Author: Majid, A.
Author: Akhtar, M.R.
Author: Hashmi, N.I.
Year: 1986
Abstract: Over 85 percent of wheat area in Pakistan is now sown to high yielding varieties and the national average fertilizer application for wheat is nearly 90kg/ha of nutrients. Further increases in wheat yields will come about largely through improved cultural practices which exploit the genetic potential of available varieties. This will have to be done within an economic environment tending to reduce price incentives in wheat production. This report summarizes findings from three years of research on wheat production in farmers' fields in three irrigated cropping systems the Punjab rice/wheat area and cotton/wheat area and the NWFP maize-sugarcane/wheat area. A farming systems research approach has been used in which a) wheat has been viewed as an integral part of a cropping system and changes have been evaluated in terms of the productivity of the system, b) constraints on wheat production and opportunities for change have been analysed at the farm level for well defined groups of farmers and c) a multidisciplinary team of wheat scientists and social scientists have collaborated in analysing farmers' problems. A diagnostic survey has been conducted in each area using informal and formal survey techniques, to provide an understanding of the system and farmers' production practices. This has been followed by experiments in farmers' fields to test promising opportunities for improving productivity. The results reported are based on interviews with nearly 1000 farmers and the outcome of nearly 200 on farm experiments. In each of the three areas a dominant crop rotation prevails with wheat sown after rice, cotton or maize (according to the area) in half or more of the fields surveyed. These sequential double cropping patterns have led to widespread late planting of wheat (70% of fields were planted after December 1st in the cotton/wheat area). Late planting leads to an average decline in yields of 30-40kg for every day's delay in planting. Breeding emphas±s needs to shift to developing varieties which perform well over all planting dates, and particularly for late planting, which represents the "norm" in many areas. Recent evidence indicates that newly released "full season" varieties, especially Pak81, perform better in late planting than the early variety, Sonalika, which is currently recommended. The trend toward double cropping is continuing and will place greater pressure on the wheat crop. Many fields, especially in the rice/wheat area, are sown to a single cropping pattern year-after-year. The continuous sowing of wheat in Rabi cycle has led to an increase in weed and probably other pest problems and a decline in yields. Research is needed to establish more productive long term rotations in this area. In 1984, 80 percent of farmers planted banned or other rust susceptible wheat varieties such as Sonalika, and the Pakistan wheat harvest is again at risk of a rust epidemic. Less than 20 percent of farmers planted newly released varieties such as Pak8l and Punjab 81. The adoption of these newer varieties has accelerated over the last two seasons but the pace of change is too slow to prevent a rust epidemic. Pak 81, in particular, has consistently outyielded 6ther varieties by 20% or more in onfarm trials and greater efforts are needed in extension and seed distribution to speed up the adoption of this variety, especially in stripe rust areas. Farmers in the three areas commonly used one bag/acre each Gf Urea and DAP. This is well below the recommended levels but evidence is presented that fertilizer recommendations need to be tailored to farmers' needs by a) adapting recommendations to particular crop rotations, soil types, irrigation access etc. and b) basing recommendations on sound economic analysis of response curves and taking into account farmers' costs and scarcity of capital. The major issue in land preparation and planting is the difficulty experienced in obtaining a good seed bed for wheat after rice. The use of a specially designed drill for direct drilling with zero tillage has shown promise of a breakthrough in this area. Direct drilling has produced a good st~nd of wheat, reduced turnaround time from rice to wheat and eliminated land preparation costs. The major weed control method used by farmers, especially for grassy weeds is crop rotation. However, significant yield losses occur due to grassy weeds in the rice/wheat area and broadleaf weeds in the maize/wheat area. Herbicide control of broadleaf weeds is highly profitable in the NWFP maize/wheat area but more work is needed to find economic means for controlling grassy weeds in the rice/wheat and practical area. Irrigation practices are very variable depending on crop rotation, soil type and access to water. Little research is available to guide farmers to utilize water efficiently under their particular circumstances. Wheat yields varied from 1.8t/ha in the rice/wheat area to 2.8t/ha in the NWFP maize/wheat area. Official yield statistics are grossly in error for NWFP. At current, prices, wheat production provides negative economic returns in all areas except the maize/wheat area. Multiple regression analysis of farmers yields' shows, that the main factors responsible for differences in yields are - variety, nitrogen or phosphorous depending on the area, irrigation and especially crop rotation. Weed problems are also a significant yield reducing foetor in each area. However, the yield gap between farmers' yields and an economic potential yield is only 30-40%, much low~r than widely reported. In addition, yield differences between small and large farmers are not significant except in the rice/wheat area. Opportunities for technology transfer and research to sustain future increases in wheat production are identified. Technology transfer should focus on dissemination of newly released varieties in all areas, use of direct drilling in the rice/wheat area, and broad leaf weed control by herbicides in the maize/wheat area. Many of the issues analysed in the report are identified for further onfarm research especially fertilizer and water use efficiency. In addition, long term research on rotations is needed. Finally, the data base generated can serve as a ~aluable starting point for analysis of key policy issues such as fertilizer subsidies or the comparative advantage of wheat and oilseeds. The report concludes with implications for organizing research to sustain increased wheat production. These emphasise a multidisciplinary approach to solving farmers' pro~uction problems with priority on onfarm research. Decentralization of production research to specific locations representing major cropping systems and reorientation of extension priorities are also recommended.
Format: PDF
Language: English
Publisher: PARC
Publisher: CIMMYT
Serie: PARC/CIMMYT Wheat Paper
Copyright: CIMMYT manages Intellectual Assets as International Public Goods. The user is free to download, print, store and share this work. In case you want to translate or create any other derivative work and share or distribute such translation/derivative work, please contact indicating the work you want to use and the kind of use you intend; CIMMYT will contact you with the suitable license for that purpose.
Type: Report
Country focus: Pakistan
Region: South Asia
Place of Publication: Faisalabad (Pakistan)
Pages: 59 pages
Serie Number: No. 86-7
Agrovoc: WHEAT

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  • Wheat
    Wheat - breeding, phytopathology, physiology, quality, biotech

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