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Pakistan to develop intercropping system

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is likely to introduce an intercropping system in coming years by following a Chinese model in an effort to protect its vital cotton crop from leaf curl virus attack.

The International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) has kicked off experiments in this regard.

Speaking at a press briefing, ICARDA Country Manager Abdul Majid revealed that experiments on wheat and cotton crops were being conducted as part of the intercropping system, under which a crop is grown among plants of a different kind.

Early planting of cotton could make the crop more mature that would help control the leaf curl virus and intercropping of wheat and cotton was an option in that regard, said Majid, who was flanked by US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Research Geneticist Dr Jodi Scheffler.

Though intercropping would lead to 10% loss of wheat crop, it would improve farmer earnings by 30-40%, he said, while pointing out that intercropping of wheat and cotton was being tested on a small land area of one acre.

China adopted this system four to five years ago and it is still continuing. Chinese farmers have given up wheat cultivation over 10-20% of the sowing area.

Majid insisted that intercropping would secure both wheat and cotton crops, adding low prices of cotton in Pakistan were the outcome of farmers switching to other crops. Last year, cotton production had dropped by around 30% and this year too it was expected to be lower than the target. Dr Jodi Scheffler said a programme for enhancing cotton productivity and ensuring food security had been launched with cooperation of the United States.

Under this scientific cooperation programme, she said scientists of Pakistan and the US were trying to see how they could manage to reduce the risk posed by the cotton leaf curl virus. She revealed that the scientists had found two genes that would be included in local cotton seeds to resist the disease attack. In this regard, the USDA donated 5,000 cotton seed samples for Pakistan’s germ plasm collection.

Pakistani scientists have screened the donated samples and identified multiple sources of resistance to the virus in non-commercial cotton that can be combined into one seed.

Under the programme, diagnostic tests have been developed to identify the virus and track its spread as well as suggest management practices to help farmers mitigate effects of the virus and pests.

Courtesy : Express Tribune

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