First National Report Of Pakistan to the Convention on Biological Diversity Ministry of Environment Government of Pakistan Contents

Chapter 9: Agricultural Biodiversity

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Chapter 9: Agricultural Biodiversity

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. Hybrid 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.

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).


The two main cropping seasons in Pakistan are Kharif (summer) and Rabi (winter).

Crop Genetic Diversity

Pakistan lies in close proximity to the four major centres of Biodiversity.28 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.

Table 9.1: Crop Genetic Diversity in Pakistan

Plant Group

Native to Pakistan

Introduced to Pakistan

Food Plant

Bread wheat, Rice, Barley, Cowpea, Pigeon pea, Moth bean, Green gram, Horse gram

Maize, Small millet, Sorghum, Pearl millet, Chickpea, Lentil, Field pea



Potato, Sweet potato


Okra, Eggplant, Melon, Cluster bean, French bean, Pumpkin Gourd, Water melon, Bean

Tomato, Carrot, Radish, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Turnip, Bitter gourd

Fibre Plant

Tree cotton, Sunhemp

American cotton


Indian mustard, Sesame, Safflower, Castor

Groundnut, Soybean, Sunflower, Linseed

Spices and Condiments

Turmeric, Black mustard

Chillies, Coriander, Cumin, Fennel, Mint, Ginger

Fruit Plants

Mango, Citrus, Jujube, Guava, Mulberry, Pomegranate

Apple, Pear, Peach, Plum, Apricot, Strawberry, Grapes, Banana, Papaya, Date palm


Lotus, Jasmine, Orchids, Rhododendrons

Rose, Dahlia, Marigold, Chrysanthemum, Tuberose, Cacti, Various others

Source: Dr. Zahoor Ahmad, Plant Genetics Resource Institute, 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 a-biotic 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 9.229. 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

Common Name

Scientific Name

Distribution in Pakistan

Wild relative of wheat

Aegilops squarossus

Mountain areas of Northern Pakistan

Aegilops triuncialis

Mountain areas of Northern Pakistan

Wild relative of wheat

Elymus borianum

Endemic to Swat

Elymus kuramensis

Endemic to Kurram

Elymus nodosus


Elymus stewarti

Endemic to Kashmir

Elymus longe aristatus

High alpine areas of Hindukush Himalayas and Karakorum

Elymus russelii

Endemic to Karakorum

Elymus jacquemontii

Endemic to Kashmir

Wild relatives of barley

Hordeum bogdanii

Karakorum, Ziarat, and Harboi Range

Hordeum spontaneum

North Balochistan

Hordeum murinum

NWFP, Murree Hills

Oryza coarctata

Indus Delta

Sorghum nitidum

Hazara and Murree Hill tract

Sorghum halepense

Common weed throughout the country

Wild relatives of millet

Pennisetum flaccidum

High alpine slopes of Karakorum, Himalayas, Hindukush

Wild relative of cotton

Gossypium stocksii

South Sindh

Wild relatives of mustard

Brassica junacea

Western area of Balochistan

Brassica deflexa

Western part of North Balochistan

Wild relatives of kenaf

Hibiscus caesius

North Punjab, NWFP, Kashmir

Hibiscus micranthus

Sindh and Balochistan

Hibiscus lobatus

Salt Range, Kurram Valley, Sindh

Wild relatives of chick pea

Cicer macranthum

Hindukush, -Himalayas,-Karakorum

Cicer microphyllum

Hindukush, -Himalayas,-Karakorum

Wild relatives of bean

Vigna spp

Wild relatives of fruits

Pyrus pashia

Temperate Himalayas

Mallus chitralensis


Prunus prostrata

Temperate Himalayas

Wild almond

Amygdalus brahuicus

North Balochistan

Wild cherry

Cerrasus rechingeri

North Balochistan

Wild relatives of grapes

Vitis jacquemontii



Punica granatum

Foothill Himalayas

Wild relative of olive

Olea ferruginea

Lower hills of North Pakistan

Source: Flora of Pakistan

Pakistan has taken steps to preserve varieties of agricultural crops. The composition of the germplasm collection stored at the NARC National Gene Bank is given in Figure 9.2.

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