High yielding hybrid maize seeds

High yielding hybrid maize seeds

By Tahir Ali

(DAWN Monday, 24 May, 2010)

Officials at agriculture department believe Khyber Pakhtunkhwa can triple the present maize yield per acre if the farmers sow hybrid seeds — Babar and Karamat.

“Maize has higher per acre yield than other crops and it can further be increased manifold if the two hybrid seeds produced at the Cereal Crops Research Institute (CRCI) in Pir Sabaq are sown in the province,” officials assert.

The average per acre maize yield has been at 690 kg in 2005, 638 kg in 2006, 857 kg in 2007 and 732 kg in 2008..

Director Seeds Industry Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Muhammad Ismail Jan says the CRCI has produced several hybrid maize seeds but experiments conducted on these two seeds in Malakand, Hazara, Mardan, Peshawar and some other divisions have proved their better yielding potential. Babar has a per acre yield of 100 maunds or 4,000 kg and Karamat up to 120 maunds or around 5,000 kg.

“Their grains are bigger and their resistance against diseases is also high. Also, another advantage is that when the crop fully ripens their leaves remain fresh and green which can be used as fodder for animals,” he added.

It can be highly lucrative for farmers. A yield of 120 maunds per acre would earn Rs100,000 at the current market rate. The net income after deductions of expenses would be around Rs80,000 – a hefty amount by any standard. The income could go up enormously if the farmers grow two or three crops in a year.

“But to get the maximum yield, farmers should use the first generation hybrid seeds – F1. Research has indicated that yield from the second generation seed of the crop gradually drops down from 10 to 50 per cent. Also, these should be sown in a systematic manner – in rows. The distance between rows and plants should be 30 and 10 inches. This method decreases the ratio of per acre seeds, increase yield and facilitate other components of farming. The crop also requires watering on every rotation and proper amount of DAP and urea intake,” Ismail Jan added.

Both the seeds can be sown in Kharif and Rabi. In Kharif season, the crop matures in about 100 days while in Rabi it takes about 120 days. In the plains, the sowing period for Babar in Rabi season is February 15 to March 15 while in Kharif it is between June 20 and July 20. In the hilly and semi-mountainous areas, Babar should be cultivated between May 1 and June 25.

For Karamat, the sowing period for Rabi season in the plains is Feb15 to March 15 and in Kharif season it is June 15 to July 10. In hilly areas, it is from May 1 June 15,” he said.

He said the farmers could get the standard F1 seeds easily from the provincial seeds industry stores and private companies.

Manzur Ahmad, a farmer, said availability of improved seeds is the biggest problem for maize growers. “The government should put in place an efficient seed distribution system to provide good quality seeds to farmers. It necessitates involvement of farmers associations,” said Ahmad.

Maize being the second largest food crop after wheat is of major importance for the food deficit province.

Maize is a multipurpose crop. It is used as food by the people. It produces edible oil. It is also used in several cereal products. It is also consumed by starch industry and livestock feed industry. Its sticks are used as fodder and fuel in rural areas. These can be utilised for power generation as well.

Studies by the National Agricultural Research Centre Islamabad have established that maize can be a good diet for all. The use of maize can also reduce wheat import bill.

The government should announce a minimum support price and procure maize directly from farmers. At present, there is no official procurement centre or mechanism in place for maize crop.

Only four districts of the province have bulk seed stores. More stores should be opened in other districts and the tribal belt.

The provincial government should encourage private sector to set up state-of-the-art maize seed processing plants and accredited seed laboratories. Private companies need to be encouraged to introduce new seed varieties that increase maize productivity.

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About Tahir Ali Khan
I am an academic, freelance columnist, writer and a social worker.

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