Muhammad Atif Ismail
Multan: The excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers for last few decades has not only affected the environment but also damaged fertility of soil. Henceforth, The agricultural soil has become very much weak and unable to produce required or expected yield.
The agriculture sector has utterly ignored the presence of organic matter (animal dung, tree leaves, crops remains etc) in the soil.
Fertilizers and pesticides can deliver better results only if the soil has sufficient organic matter. However , constant use of pesticides and fertilizers has poisoned soil and it is a major reason behind decline in production of different crops, especially wheat, cotton, sugarcane, rice and vegetables.
According to agriculture experts, there should be at least five to six percent organic matter in the soil for achieving handsome production.
Unfortunately, the agriculture sector has ignored organic matter for the last many years. Resultantly, soil contained 0.5 percent of organic material only, which is not only weakening soil condition but also damaging farmers economically and causing ultimate loss to the country’s economy.
Dean Faculty of Agriculture and Environment Science, Muhammad Nawaz Sharif University of Agriculture Multan (MNS-UAM), Dr Shafqat Saeed said, “the regular use of pesticides and fertilizers poisoned our soil.” “Although, fertilizers and pesticides are considered important but in case of weak soil, these could not produce better yield.
There is a dire need to maintain the presence of organic matter in soil. When fertilizers are applied to any field, they make special bonds with organic matter and thus help contribute more production.
“If soil lacks organic material, then fertilizers lose their efficacy because they cannot build any bond in soil, which is essential for fertility of soil,” Dr Shafqat Saeed explained. “We have to limit chemical intervention in our agriculture sector.
Europe is returning to organic farming nowadays, so we will have to promote organic farming along with use of modern agriculture tools or machineries,” he remarked. Dr Shafqat added, Pakistan was among those countries severely affected by climate changes.
Suddenly changing temperatures, unexpected rainfall, changing seasons of crop sowing and harvesting were also big challenges. So, we have to move to smart farming for sustainable agriculture in the country.
Smart farming means a combination of both traditional as well as modern farming techniques. Modern farming techniques also refer to efficient use of available resources.
For the health of soil, the agriculture sector should follow traditional methods.
However, modern technology should be utilized for sowing, harvesting, grading, marketing and some other necessary operations of crops.
About excessive use of pesticides, Dr Shafqat Saeed stated that pesticides put a negative impact on the environment.
The low use of pesticides would surely help improve the ecosystem, said Shafqat, adding that they should also promote artificial intelligence for achieving the goal of sustainable agriculture.
The agriculture expert quoted an example of Amazon forest and stated that there was a natural system. Fertilizers and pesticides were never used in the forest but it was only the natural system which maintained the fertility of the forest.
Best ecosystem was also vital for human health, he noted. Director Office of Research, Innovation and Commercialization (ORIC) MNS-UAM, Dr Zulfiqar advocated applying traditional as well as modern farming techniques for sustainable agriculture.
“We cannot ignore traditional as well as modern farming techniques. Combination of both techniques is essential to get handsome production”.
For soil health and its fertility, he supported traditional style farming. However, for crops preparation, he proposed use of modern technologies including artificial intelligence, weather information and modern tools.
For example, weather information is very much important in decision making for any farmer. Dr Zulfiqar remarked that they had to focus on soil health.
The farming sector would have to discourage excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers. Similarly, crop rotation policy should also be introduced, he stated adding that the farmers were cultivating the same crops repeatedly.
They should cultivate crops on a rotation basis as it would surely help maintaining soil fertility as well as keeping pest attack away from crops.
He quoted an example of cotton and stated that the crop was sown repeatedly and it resulted in consistent attack of pests, especially pink bollworms.
He proposed that farmers should cultivate some other crops, contrary to last year’s crop in particular fields. Dr Zulfiqar said farmers should also rear animals, hens, plant trees and mulch crops residue instead of burning it. Progressive farmers and representatives of Pakistan Kissan Ittehad Mian Ishnaaq Watto and Khalid Chaudhary stated that labour shortage was a big problem in the agriculture sector. They stated that small farmers could not purchase modern tools.
They opined that the government should ensure steps for provision of modern agriculture machinery to facilitate small farmers.
However, about traditional farming techniques, they stated that their ancestors had achieved remarkable productions but it was very difficult for them to get huge production. They, however, appreciated modern technology including harvester, cotton picking machine, ultra-high-density farming, drip irrigation system act, which eased farming in the country and also helped manage the issue of labour shortage.