BEIJNG, (23rd March, 2021, 10:08 pm) (APP):China-Pakistan cooperation in seed, the “core” of agriculture, is high on the agenda as the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) enters the second phase to focus on agriculture cooperation and other sectors of social welfare.
China used to be plagued by a severe shortage of seeds, with over 90% of cotton seeds exported from overseas. Thanks to the promulgation of Seed Law in 1999 and its revised version in 2016, which led to a growing attention to seed security and seed investments, China has transformed itself from a major seed importer to a seed breeding powerhouse – exploring the 4th generation of breeding of combining conventional breeding, biotechnology and information technology.
Against this background, China National Chemical Corporation has emerged as one of the international seed giants.
At the China-Pakistan Seed Industry Cooperation and Exchange Forum held on March 18, agricultural experts from China and Pakistan offered insights on how to further promote bilateral cooperation in the seed industry.
As one of the top 10 major wheat producers in the world, Pakistan has a wheat acreage of about 130 million mu (about 2.14 million acres), which accounts for 44% of the total arable land in the country, but its average yield merely stands at an estimated 200 kg/ mu. The disproportionately low output, coupled with a draught and a locust infestation last summer, has led the country to increase wheat imports to stem rising flour prices from supply shortage.
In 2019, wheat output in Pakistan stood at around 2,800 kg/ha, 20% lower than the world’s average of 3,550 kg/ha. In view of this gap, Dr Zhang Shengquan of the Beijing Academy of Agricultural and Forestry Sciences said, “In 2012, we carried out joint R&D on two-line hybrid wheat in Pakistan, and achieved an average increase of more than 20 % in wheat production, and last year, we brought that figure to 50% and even up to 70%.”
The potential of China’s hybrid wheat is further emphasised by Shahzad Ali Malik, CEO of GUARD AGRI, during his interview with China Economic Net (CEN). GUAED AGRI was the first Pakistani agricultural company to introduce Chinese hybrid wheat, and despite the “challenge-laden” process, the company remains confident that Chinese hybrid wheat will help boost food production in Pakistan.
“Chinese seed companies follow professional and good ethics, valuing quality and honouring commitments. Both sides have stuck to the principle of security and win-win cooperation. It is the base on which Pakistan and Chinese agriculture businesses have maintained strong cooperation.”
The reasons for limited wheat production in Pakistan include low yield potential of seed varieties, mismanagement, high temperature and drought, and severe rust damage, etc.
The drought-resistant and infertility-resistant traits of Chinese hybrid wheat make it a suitable variety to be introduced in Pakistan.
Dr Li Hui from the breeding team of the Hebei Academy of Agricultural and Forestry Sciences said that China’s Hebei, with its natural conditions similar to those of Pakistan, has been dedicated to the R&D of draught-resistant, water-saving wheat varieties to achieve replicably stable and huge production. The 30 water-saving wheat varieties bred by his team are expected to be introduced into Pakistan through the China-Pakistan Agricultural and Industrial Information Cooperation Platform.
Ali Raza, a post-doctoral research fellow at Sichuan Agricultural University, learned the “maize-soybean intercropping technology” from his Chinese supervisor, Professor Yang Wenyu of Sichuan Agricultural University. He introduced the technology to Pakistan and transformed the local agriculture sector.
The intercropping technology was once hailed as a possible second Green Revolution in grain and soybean production in Pakistan.
The intercropping technology was acclaimed for four reasons, Professor Yang Wenyun of Sichuan Agricultural University explained. First, the technology can greatly save foreign exchange reserves arising from Pakistan’s soybean imports. Second, maize-soybean intercropping can achieve a planting and breeding cycle, which lead to increased farmers’ income and reduced environmental pollution by facilitating the raising of cattle and sheep. Third, it can make the land fertile with green and sustainable approaches. Fourth, Pakistan can enhance crop breeding and cultivation and its mechanisation level by introducing Chinese soybean varieties and cultivation technologies including seeders, sprayers and harvesters to the country.
In 2020, China has produced a total of 5.91 million tons of cotton, slightly higher than that of 2019, according to the National Bureau of Statistics of China. This was achieved amid a 5.1% decrease in the cotton acreage compared with the previous year. The output per unit area was 124.3 kg/mu, a 5.7% year-on-year increase.. Dong Hezhong, Director of Cotton Research Centre at Shandong Academy of Agricultural Sciences told CEN that China currently accounts for 25 % of the world’s cotton production, with 12 % of the world’s planting area. The high cotton productivity in China is due to the “dark technologies in cotton cultivation.
Similar to the maize-soybean intercropping technology, the innovative alternate intercropping technology of cotton and peanut was adopted by Mr Dong. “In the first year, cotton is planted on the right plot and peanut on the left and by the next year, the positions of the cotton and peanut are switched to ensure a stable soil nature. The technology helps enhance cotton yields by 20 % and increase soil fertility.”
Similar to Pakistan, China’s Xinjiang has suffered from perennial drought, but it managed to produce nearly 90% of the national cotton production against all odds. The recipe for Xinjiang’s miraculous success lies in the integration of water dripping and fertilizers applying since 2006, especially the drip irrigation under mulch technology.
By enhancing the irrigation rate and the utilisation rate of fertilizers and reducing the mechanic operations, the technology has helped improve the land utilisation and cotton output while inhibiting weed growth, and improve economic benefits by reducing labour force.
The achievements of the technology in Xinjiang are multiple, according to Yang Wansen, General Manager of Xinjiang Tianjie Water-saving Irrigation System Co., Ltd. The technology not only saves water, fertilizer, labour force, land and cost, but increase the output by 30% and the efficiency by 50%. It can also enhance the controllability of agricultural production. “Over 80 million mu of cotton has adopted the drip irrigation under mulch technology in Xinjiang.”
The Pakistani seed industry holds great potential to meet local needs and to further export Pakistani seeds to other countries, he said. The seed industry has made strides with bilateral cooperation and support, and it will further benefit from the China-Pakistan Agricultural and Industrial Cooperation Information Platform.
“This platform can help us further promote agricultural modernisation and alleviate poverty in the country.”
Punjab boasts 70 % of the arable land in Pakistan and 80 % of its grain output, and for this reason, it is home to the majority of China-Pakistan agricultural cooperation projects. Peng Zhengwu, Acting Consul General of China’s Consulate General in Lahore, encouraged Chinese seed companies to draw on their seed and technological advantages to enhance cooperation with Pakistan and help the country innovate the seed industry to maintain steady and healthy development.”
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