Recently, Chinese agricultural technology called “maize-soybean strip intercropping” received funds from Pakistani research boards and institutions for large-scale promotion in Pakistan.
This exhibits the country’s determination and vision to revitalise soybean production and safeguard food security in a practical way.
Soybean, a profitable crop that seems to have been forgotten, is getting the opportunity to glitter in the country again through agricultural cooperation between Pakistan and China.
With the development and modernisation of poultry and dairy sectors in Pakistan, the country’s demand for soybean has seen a strong growth. However, due to the lack of capacity for self-production, Pakistan overwhelmingly relies on imports to meet the increasing demand.
Soybean crops were introduced to Pakistan in the 1960s and commercial cultivation began in 1970-71. Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) and provincial research institutes in 1977-78 carried out research and eight soybean varieties were developed.
During the 1990s, the area under soybean cultivation touched the highest point at 6,613 hectares, then declined sharply to a few hectares without any increase in the following years.
Based on various research studies, soybean production and commercialisation in Pakistan was hindered by the unavailability of high-yielding, climate-ready and pest-resistant varieties, absence of latest production technologies, skills and knowledge, lack of machinery and insufficiency of marketing of the produce and its byproducts.
Despite challenges, there is a huge potential to tap the local soybean production in Pakistan. Soybean crop can be incorporated into the existing spring as well as summer pattern.
Under the intercropping technology, farmers can grow soybean without curbing the cultivation area of existing crops like maize, sugarcane and corn. This technology makes better use of available space and increases the quantity of crops that can be harvested on the same area of land.
As an all-weather strategic partner of Pakistan, China is lending a helping hand in stimulating local soybean production by introducing the advanced maize-soybean intercropping technology from the Sichuan Agricultural University.
This technology has been applied on 4.76 million hectares of land in 19 Chinese provinces and its economic benefits stand at 24.5 billion yuan.
“Based on our research, if Pakistan wants to enhance soybean production, the adoption of maize-soybean strip intercropping technology will be the best of all viable alternatives,” said Maize-Soybean Strip Intercropping study leader Yang Wenyu from the Sichuan Agricultural University.
“Maize is already a main crop grown on an area of about 1.3 million hectares in Pakistan, and its output can basically meet the domestic demand,” Yang said. “Therefore, implementing maize-soybean strip intercropping technology to revitalise soybean production will result in ease for farmers because they will just need to add soybean crops in the current maize fields.”
This autumn, the total demonstration area of maize-soybean strip intercropping technology in Pakistan skyrocketed to about 217 acres, reporting a 117% year-on-year increase.
The technology is being implemented in Bahawalpur, Khairpur Tamewali, Rajanpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Shiekhupura, Sargodha, Kasoor, Talagang, Khairpur Mirus, Tandojam, Hayderabad, Faisalabad and Burewala.
On August 11, 2021, Prime Minister Imran Khan inaugurated the Intercropping Research Center jointly established by Sichuan Agricultural University and the Islamia University of Bahawalpur, which is the first-ever national research center dedicated to intercropping research within Pakistan.
Khan appreciated the maize-soybean strip intercropping technology.
“Pakistan is blessed with a large amount of sunlight and other natural resources,” said Islamia University of Bahawalpur Vice Chancellor Athar Mahboob. “With the expertise and advanced research from China, we believe we can learn from our Chinese counterparts and then apply and modify the same techniques according to the needs and the local environment of our country.”
The article originally appeared on the China Economic Net
Published in The Express Tribune, November 7th, 2021.
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