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LAHORE: Stakeholders proposed to set up a “farmer portal” containing real-time information for decision making by the growers, especially cotton growers, on operations (seeding to harvest) including market channels to help farmers make decision on crop planning, selection of seed, inputs etc.

The portal should also have information for farmers, extension workers, R&D/University about soil characterization, land preparation, knowledge based crop management decisions (fertilizers, crop protection), adjustment to real time weather and pest challenges, harvest, and marketing decisions.

The demand surfaced at a debate by the Agriculture Republic, an agri think-tank, on “how can the government and stakeholders revive the cotton in Pakistan”.

The discussion was moderated by founders of this platform Aamer Hayat Bhandara and Fouad Bajwa, who also offered the government to help form this platform to revive the dwindling cotton crop.

Participants observed that cotton segment needs the much due attention by government and stakeholders in terms of financial as well as product security for researchers and international firms that want to explore cotton seed technology.

The experts believed this portal will be a great service to the farming community and will help combat the food security challenges faced by Pakistan. This will also be instrumental in the revival of cotton production. Therefore, a farmer portal will combine data and operational insight of an individual farmer with a network of third party service providers to help with the decision process for agronomic management activities.

Participants also proposed encouraging tripartite collaborations (industry, government and research institutes/universities) to improve local cotton varieties with more tolerance to drought and heat, reducing the long duration of cotton (315 days) to short duration (210-220 days), with the aim to bring down overall input costs and overcome food security issues.

Biotechnology traits for insect protection would also help season long built-in crop protection and enable fewer trips over the field during unfavourable environmental conditions. Advanced herbicide formulations and herbicide - tolerant seeds would provide farmers with tools to fight weeds that steal water and nutrients.

Stakeholders also said that government should build an action plan which is practical and enforceable. The first step would be enforcing research institutes to produce varieties that are suitable for climate change. The first step should be the introduction of quality seed, second introducing regulations to curb low-quality seed or pesticide production in the market.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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