Inaugural session of the AIP-Agronomy national meeting on conservation agriculture. Photo: Amina Nasim Khan
“Cereal system productivity cannot be improved without improving agronomic practices,” declared Shahid Masood, Member of the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) at a two-day AIP-Agronomy national meeting on conservation agriculture held in Islamabad, Pakistan, on 26-27 May 2015. He lauded CIMMYT’s efforts to strengthen conservation agriculture (CA) research and disseminate CA to Pakistan’s farming community and mentioned the importance of public and private partnerships for promoting CA technologies. The meeting was jointly organized by CIMMYT and PARC under USAID’s Agricultural Innovation Program (AIP) for Pakistan.
National partners shared progress on AIP’s agronomy activities and on implementation related issues at the event, which was attended by 58 agriculture professionals from various provincial and federal research institutes, agriculture extension, universities, private companies and international centers, who are involved in agronomy research and dissemination of CA technologies among the farming community under AIP.
On this occasion, Muhammad Azeem Khan, National Agricultural Research Centre (NARC) Director General, mentioned that in the 1980s, CIMMYT worked on developing zero tillage wheat technology for Pakistan’s rice-wheat area and acknowledged CIMMYT’s current research activities and capacity building of national scientists in Pakistan.
Imtiaz Muhammad, CIMMYT Country Representative and AIP Project Leader, informed participants that 13 national public and private sector partners are collaborating on conservation agriculture activities under AIP and that CIMMYT has provided new planters and financial support for implementation activities.
Imtiaz Hussain, Cropping System Agronomist, mentioned that conservation agriculture techniques such as zero tillage and bed planting in Pakistan’s rice-wheat, maize-wheat, legume-wheat, cotton-wheat and rainfed wheat cropping systems are currently being evaluated and disseminated. In collaboration with national partners, CIMMYT is also evaluating the zero-tillage Happy Seeder, which can plant wheat under heavy rice residue, without burning, in the Punjab’s rice-wheat area. This environmentally friendly technology has helped farmers avoid burning rice residues, reduce tillage operations and improve wheat yields. CIMMYT, in collaboration with national partners, is also focusing on evaluating site-specific nutrient management techniques, such as Nutrient ExpertTM decision support tools for wheat and maize and the GreenSeeker handheld sensor for nitrogen management in wheat.
USAID Representative Nazim Ali acknowledged CIMMYT’s efforts to implement AIP activities among smallholder farmers and disseminate improved technologies in smaller provinces such as Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
At the closing session, participants agreed to focus on locally manufacturing the zero-till Happy Seeder and ZT multi-crop planter, disseminating CA planters and techniques through service providers, introducing small farm machinery to smallholders in northern Pakistan and building the capacity of national partners.