This section describes agriculture in Pakistan, including the different crops grown. Problems and threats to Pakistan’s agricultural Biodiversity are also discussed, as are the conservation measures that have already been taken or are proposed.
9.1 Agriculture in Pakistan
Pakistan is endowed with a variety of plant species that range from the tropical to the temperate. Rural communities who have relied on genetic Biodiversity to ensure the stability of their food production systems use many of these for food and nutrition. These systems include diverse cropping practices suited to local ecological, social and cultural systems. The agro-ecological diversity of the region has been important in the evolution of diverse farming systems that are built in distinct knowledge systems, which the native farming communities have tried and refined over generations. These farming communities also developed conservation and management strategies to ensure the sustainable use of agricultural resources. Pakistan’s main productive areas all lie in the arid zone with average annual rainfall of less than 200 mm. Before the construction of the barrages, irrigated agriculture was practised along the riverbeds. With the extension of the canal irrigation system, Pakistan now produces tropical crops like rice and sugarcane. Before the green revolution, farmers kept their own seed, but it is now almost impossible to find local varieties of seed. HYV seeds, pesticides and chemical fertilisers are now commonly used. This could result in genetic erosion. Resistance of pests to insecticides, particularly cotton, is a dilemma that Pakistan faces.
9.2 Production Systems
The main crops grown in Pakistan include food grains and cereal crops, including wheat, barley, rice, maize, sorghum and millets, cotton, sugarcane, tobacco, pulses, oilseed, fruits, and vegetables (Figure 9.1).
Figure 9.1: Agricultural Profile of Pakistan
The two main cropping seasons in Pakistan are Kharif (summer) and Rabi (winter).
9.3 Crop Genetic Diversity
Pakistan lies in close proximity to the four major centres of Biodiversity.14 Further, the diversity in agro-climatic regions, crops, agricultural systems and farming cultures make this region rich in agro-Biodiversity. Throughout the ages, the diverse communities have evolved strategies for harnessing local agro-Biodiversity for food security as well as for improved livelihood. A variety of crops, fruits and vegetables are grown in Pakistan. The various native and introduced plant species are listed in Table 9.1.
Rose, Dahlia, Marigold, Chrysanthemum, Tuberose, Cacti, Various others
Source: Zahoor, PGRI, NARC Islamabad
This table is indicative of a diversity of cultivated plants. Due to local preferences, there is much variability within each individual species. This is an important base for using agricultural Biodiversity to breed new high yielding varieties resistant to various biotic and abiotic stresses. The identification and conservation of the wild relatives of agricultural crops is a key to Biodiversity conservation as well as a guarantor of food security for the country. The Plant Genetic Resources Institute (PGRI), Islamabad, has collected specimens of the known wild relatives of agricultural crops; the detail is given in Table 9.2. There are no projects for the in-situ conservation and promotion of cultivation of the wild relatives of these crops.
Table 9.2: Wild Relatives of Crop Plants in Pakistan