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Wheat in the cotton-wheat farming systems of the punjab: implications for research and extension

Author: Akhtar, M.R.
Author: Byerlee, D.
Author: Qayyum, A.
Author: Majid, A.
Author: Hobbs, P.R.
Year: 1986
Abstract: The cotton-wheat area constitutes the most important cropping system in Pakistan. Taking those districts in which cotton is grown on at least half of the Kharif irrigated area, 2.2 million ha of wheat are grown in the cotton-wheat cropping system. However, current research and extension recommendations do not differentiate between wheat sown after cotton and wheat sown in other rotations. A diagnostic survey of wheat was conducted in the district of Multan in the 1948-85 crop cycle. The major objectives of this survey were to delineate major sources of variation in the area, identify factors limiting productivity and plan an on-farm experimentation/extension programme. An informal survey a team of agricultural economists and agronomists was conducted in March 1985. This was followed by a formal survey of wheat production practices and yields at harvest time in 150 randomly selected fields. Production practices were recorded in the short interview with farmers in their fields and yields were measured by harvesting and threshing three to five plots of dimension 1m2 located randomly in the field. Wheat after cotton was a major crop rotation in the area. About 50 percent of wheat fields were planted after cotton, and 30 percent planted after fallow. Average cropping intensity was about 130 percent. The prolonged harvesting of cotton is the major conflict in the cotton-wheat cropping system, resulting in late planting of wheat. Wheat after cotton was planted on an average 19 days later than wheat after other Kharif crops or fallow. Indeed, nearly 70 percent of wheat following cotton was planted after December 15th reducing potential yields substantially. The farmers appear to rationally weigh up the benefits of an additional cotton picking with the loss from later wheat planting. The results show that even taking into account high picking cost for the late picking, benefits of extra cotton pickings are likely to outweigh the loss in wheat yields due to late planting. The majority of farmers (60%) used non-recommended wheat varieties. Variety WL-711 which is banned because of susceptibility to leaf rust is the most common variety (39% of fields) in the area. Only 15 percent of farmers planted new recommended varieties (Punjab 81, Pak 81, Bahawalpur 79 etc). The rest (24%) used Sonalika/Bluesilver. The problem of slow uptake of new varieties reflects an inadequate distribution system for: certified seed as well as farmers' lack of awareness of the danger of a rust epidemic from using banned varieties. Chemical fertilizer was used by 95 percent of the sampled farmers. Most farmers are aware of the need to apply both nitrogenous and phosphatic fertilizers, although fertilizer application rates are well below recommended rtes. The most important nutrient explaining variation in wheat yields was phosphorous. Farmers on average applied 95-46 kg N-P2O5/ha. Crop rotations, size of farm, access to irrigation and use of farm yard manure all influenced the quantity of fertilizer applied by farmers. Weeds were not a major problem in the area. Broadleaf and wild oats were a problem in some fields but did not significantly affect wheat yields. To some extent weeds were controlled by crop rotations (after berseem). None of the farmers used herbicide to control weeds in wheat. Salinity Fifteen patches salinity yields of was found is becoming a bigger problem in the area. Fifteen percent of fields were rated as having a few of salinity and five percent had a substantial problem resulting in an average reduction in about 17 percent in those fields. No farmer who applied gypsum. Irrigation is provided by perennial (57 percent) and seasonal (43 percent) canals, supplemented by tubewells. Because of lack of electricity in many villages, diesel tubewells are much more widely used despite the fact that they are more costly to operate. About 21 percent of the farmers reported saline tubewell water. High cost of diesel, load-shedding and canal closure were the major irrigation problems in the area. Delayed harvesting well beyond maturity was a common practice, especially among large farmers who depend on hired labour for harvesting. The harvest index declined from 30.2 percent in early harvested fields to 27.4 percent in late harvested fields. This, in part, reflects the fact that late harvested fields were also late planted and hence subject to more heat stress. Farmers pay about one third of their wheat production or 13.2 kg per 40 kg. for harvesting, threshing and marketing costs. The net value of the wheat standing in the field that should be used in calculating the profitability of an innovation was Rs. 42.5 per 40 kg of wheat after subtracting harvesting and post harvest costs. The average measured wheat yields from the 150 samples were 2.3 t/ha. One third of fields yielded less than 2.0 t/ha and only 13 percent yielded above 3.0 t/ha. The characteristics of the high yielding fields were a) wheat after fallow, b) access to tubewell water and perennial canal system, c) better land preparation, d) use of new recommended varieties e) planted before November 30th and harvested before April 26th f) more irrigations and g) application of 40 percent more phosphorous. Conversely, low yielding fields had usually been planted after cotton, used banned varieties and were planted after November 30th. Multiple regression analysis of yields confirmed most of these factors as significantly affecting yields. The net returns of low (<1.84 t/ha) and average (2.29 t/ha) yielding fields only barely covered variable costs and were not high enough to cover land rent and give a reasonable return on capital to farmers. The net returns in high yielding fields (>2.64 t/ha) were positive but not high enough to give a reasonable return on capital to farmers. These results reflect the importance of cost reducing technologies if wheat is to compete with alternative crops such as sunflower. The cotton-wheat areas represent the major irrigated wheat growing areas of Pakistan and justifies a major allocation of measures for research and extension. A realistic yield gap exists in the area of 30% that can be reduced by developing recommendations for more homogeneous groups of farmers. These recommendation domains should be based on crop rotation and access to irrigation water. Major problems exist with late planting of wheat, use of rust susceptible varieties, fertilizer efficiency, irrigation water efficiency, broad leaf weeds and harvesting costs. An on-farm experimental research program is suggested to overcome these problems.
Format: PDF
Language: English
Publisher: PARC
Publisher: CIMMYT
Serie: PARC/CIMMYT 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: xi, 64 pages
Serie Number: 86-8
Agrovoc: WHEAT
Agrovoc: COTTON

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

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