Partners with the Agricultural Innovation Program for Pakistan (AIP) are working to enhance availability and access to maize seeds and varieties. The AIP maize working group discussed problems and shared recommendations to help improve maize production and productivity during its inception meeting from 3-4 February in Islamabad.
Dr. Iftikhar Ahmad, chairman of PARC, leads a group discussion. On his left is Shahid Masood, a member of the plant sciences division of PARC. On his right are Michael Wyzan, USAID representative, and Imtiaz Muhammad, AIP interim project leader and CIMMYT country representative.
Maize follows wheat and rice as Pakistan’s third most important cereal crop and is first in productivity. Covering 1.14 million hectares with a national average grain yield of about 4.0 tons per hectare (t/ha), maize area, production and productivity increased by 14.5 percent, 26 percent and 13.6 percent, respectively, from 2010-11 to 2013, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics. The high demand for feed and food are the main forces driving the increased production of maize in Pakistan. Punjab and KPK provinces are the leaders in maize production. Most maize production receives irrigation, and the majority of maize farmers produce the crop in rotation with wheat and rice.
However, unlike wheat, which took hold in Pakistan during the Green Revolution, maize requires intervention, particularly improved seed that can withstand heat and drought stress. More than 80 percent of Pakistan hybrid maize seed is imported and is too expensive for most smallholder farmers. “A farmer has to sell, on average, 36 kilograms (kg) of maize grain just to buy 1 kg of hybrid maize seed based on the current seed and grain price calculations,” said AbduRahman Beshir, maize improvement and seed system specialist at CIMMYT-Pakistan.
Most of the imported hybrids are single crosses, which contributes to the high price. In addition, the seed yield from these hybrids is low compared to other classes. The absence of intellectual property protection of plant varieties discourages seed companies from producing hybrid seeds locally. Lack of suitable maize germplasm for the heterogeneous environments of Pakistan, lack of specialty maize, a lack of plant variety protection law and a lack of a vibrant and wellmonitored maize seed system were among the major technical hitches raised during the meeting. Poor maize agronomic practices and lack of efficient extension services and mechanization for maize husbandry customized to smallholder farmers are also areas that need to be improved.
Participants in the AIP maize working group inception meeting gather in Islamabad. Photos: Awais Yaqub/CIMMYT Pakistan
As part of the AIP maize intervention, international maize trials from CIMMYT-Mexico, Colombia and Zimbabwe are being distributed to public and private partners for evaluation. Most of the CIMMYT germplasms are threeway cross hybrids, which will help reduce the seed price upon release in Pakistan. Strengthening local seed production is one of the focus areas of the AIP maize component. “To bring another Green Revolution in Pakistan, this time with maize, is not improbable given the potential the country has,” Beshir said.
The meeting was attended by 45 scientists and professionals from public and private research institutions, local and multinational seed companies, higher learning institutions and departments of extension from all provinces of Pakistan, including AJK and Gilgit Biltistan. The maize working group meeting was conducted in collaboration with the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) and was funded by USAID under the AIP maize component. The event received press coverage in major Pakistani newspapers, including the Daily Timesand The Nation.