The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT), US Agency for International Development (USAID), Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) and other partners convened a two-day annual maize working group meeting under agricultural innovation programme (AIP) for Pakistan at a local hotel in Islamabad to share new knowledge and innovations.
While officially opening the meeting, Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) Chairman Dr Nadeem Amjad said that the maize was the third most important cereal crop in Pakistan.
The average yield of maize in Pakistan, currently around 4 ton/ha, was one of the highest in South Asia, he said. The commodity needed further intervention in the areas of well-adopted varieties, seed quality and high input costs, he added. “As Pakistan is among the water scarce countries, it is imperative to have water efficient maize cultivars that can effectively utilise available surface water so that farmers can reduce the number of irrigation they provide to the crop. Varieties that can withstand drought and other biotic and abiotic stresses are important, particularly for small scale farmers.” He said the CIMMYT in partnership with national partners was testing maize varieties tolerant to stem borer, low nitrogen and drought stress which was a commendable effort as it not only it addressed the issue of our small scale farmers but also contributed for a greener agriculture.
The PARC chairman said that Pakistan imported more than 85 per cent of maize hybrid seeds which was among the causes for the highest unit seed price in the country.
He acknowledged the encouraging results from the AIP maize activities in Pakistan. He said in last February 2016 two bio-fortified maize hybrids were launched from this programme and at the same time they officially shared the parental seeds of best performing maize hybrids and open pollinated varieties to 11 public and private partners in order to fast track the seed production locally.
He also emphasized on strong public-private partnership to make Pakistan self-sufficient in quality maize seed supply and to enhance availability, accessibility and affordability of maize seeds by the resource poor farmers which in turn help Pakistan to become maize seed exporter in the foreseeable future. He acknowledged the role of CIMMYT for the valuable contribution for the enhancement of maize and wheat crops in Pakistan and USAID for the generous financial support for this programme.
On this occasion, Dr Muhammad Azeem Khan, Director General National Agricultural Research Centre (NARC), highlighted the efforts of PARC/NARC for the development of new maize varieties and hybrids and coordination with the National Agricultural Research System (NARS).