Outlook for Maize in KP

Outlook for maize crop

The Malakand division accounts for 32 per cent of the crop in the province. – File photo

PESHAWAR: FARMERS in the Malakand division are hoping a bumper maize harvest this season in the wake of favourable weather condition and the lifting of an unannounced ban on the cultivation of the crop imposed by security forces in 2009.

The Malakand division accounts for 32 per cent of the crop in the province.

Nasrullah Khan, a progressive farmer from Buner, said “There are no more restrictions on maize cultivation. The crop remained safe from rains and winds. We are hoping to get a bumper crop in the district with per acre yield of up to 3,200kg in some areas,” he said.

Muhammad Naeem, another progressive farmer and ex-head of the Model Farm Services Centre in Swat, endorsed Khan’s views. Local farmers hope per acre yield of up to 2,000kg from farm seeds and around 2,500kg from hybrid seeds in the area, which is the norm here,” he said.

However, in low/plain areas of the province like Peshawar, Swabi and Mardan, according to farmers, maize crop was damaged first by shortage of water and rain and later by torrential rains.

However, officials rule out any damage to the crop from these factors.

Haji Niamat Shah, vice-president of Anjuman-e-Kashtkaran KP, said the most suitable time for maize cultivation in the plain areas of the province was between March and May though it can be sown till July. “But there were no rains and the supply of water was too scanty to cater to the needs of maize and sugarcane crops.

That was why the farmers didn’t cultivate maize until cane was harvested by end of April. Time is of importance as delay in cultivation reduces per acre yield day by day,” he added.

“Maize requires regular watering but cannot survive its excess. The crop was damaged later when it rained heavily and water stood in the fields. The subsequent rains also caused growth of weeds in the crop. The crop also needs proper quantity of DAP and urea intakes. But as prices of these fertilisers more than doubled during this period, these remained mostly unaffordable by poor farmers,” he added.

About 40-50 per cent of the crop across the province might have been lost to these factors, he said. To get the official version, this scribe tried to contact director general agriculture extension KP but he was not available. However, an official from Mardan agriculture department rejected Shah’s assertions and termed it an exaggeration.

“We provide hybrid seeds as well as technology. We had told farmers to cultivate maize either before 45 days or 15 days before the rainy season so that maize flowers are not damaged by winds or rains and the yield is better.

Those who did not follow our advice and making no arrangements for draining out surplus water from their fields might get some of their crops damaged by excess water but that would only be known when the crop was harvested, he said, adding there were no major negative reports from any area in the district and a good crop was expected.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa produces around 0.8 – 0.9 million tons of maize per year. According to an estimate, Punjab and KP account for 84 per cent of the total maize production and 95 per cent of the maize cultivation area. But while per acre yield of the crop in central Punjab has gone up to 4,600 kg, it is generally between 700-1,200kg in KP.

This is disappointing when that two locally developed hybrid maize varieties Babar and Karamat have yielded up to 4,800kg per acre in research farms.

KP’s share in countrywide maize production has been on the decline — it accounted for 68 per cent of the total maize production in 1996, down to 28 per cent in 2006.

The maize farmers in KP have remained far behind their counterparts in Punjab. According to a Swabi-based farmer Hameed Khan, the per acre yield in Punjab is higher because they use first generation (F1) seeds, do mechanised farming, apply latest production methods and have started commercial farming.

“But in KP, farmers lag far behind on these indicators and use mostly second generation (F2) or even third generation (F3) seeds. And it is known that yield from F2 declines by half while from F3 comes to less than 1/3rd of the F1 potential,” he says.

“Another advantage enjoyed by Punjab farmers is comparatively bigger land holdings and good financial position. They can invest more in standard seeds, fertiliser use and latest farming technology. Through efficient crop rotation and modern agriculture technology they have made it possible to grow three crops while in KP, despite potential, mostly two crops are grown,” he adds.

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Here is the original text of the article

Prospects of maize crop

By Tahir Ali Khan

Farmers in the Malakand division hope for a bumper maize crop in wake of favourable weather and the lifting of an unannounced ban on the cultivation of maize imposed by the security forces in 2009.

Good yield in the area could boost maize production considerably as Malakand division accounts for 32 per cent of provincial maize production. A bumper crop besides increasing farmers’ incomes will also provide cheaper maize flour to the people, favoured by them for its warm effects.

Nasrullah Khan, a progressive farmer from Buner, said there were good prospects for the maize crop in the district this year. “There are no more restrictions on maize cultivation. There have been damages neither by rains nor winds. We are hoping to get a bumper crop in the district with PAY of up to 3200kg in some areas,” he informed.

And Muhammad Naeem, another progressive farmer and ex-head of the model farm services centre in Swat, seconded his views and said maize yield in the area will considerably increase as farmers face no curbs on maize cultivation this year. Local farmers eye PAY of up to 2000 kg from the farm seeds and around 2500kg from hybrid seeds in the area, which is the norm here,” he said.

However, in low/plain areas of the province like Peshawar, Swabi and Mardan, according to farmers, maize crop has been damaged first by the lack of water and rain and later by excess of water due to torrential rains though officials say there is no threat to the crop from these factors.

Haji Niamat Shah, vice president of Anjuman-e-Kashtkaran KP, said the most suitable time for maize cultivation in plain areas of the province was between March-May though it can be sown till July. “But there were no rains and the supply of water was also insufficient to cater to the watering needs of sugarcane crop and maize simultaneously. So, the farmers didn’t cultivate the crop until sugarcane was harvested till the end of April. Time is of importance as delay in cultivation decreases per acre yield (PAY) day by day,” he said.

“Maize requires watering regularly but it also cannot survive excess of water. Later when it rained heavily, the crop was damaged by the heated water standing in fields. Heavy subsequent rains also caused growth of unnecessary weeds in the crop. Then, maize also needs proper amount of DAP and urea intakes whose prices have more than doubled during this period, thus becoming mostly unaffordable for the poor farmers” he added.

According to him, about 40-50 per cent of crop across the province might have been lost to these factors. To get the official version, this scribe tried to contact director general agriculture extension KP but he was not available. However, an official from Mardan agriculture department rejected Shah’s assertions, dubbing it as an exaggeration.

“We provide hybrid seeds as well as technology. We had told farmers to cultivate maize either before 45 days or 15 days before the rainy season so that the maize flowers are not damaged by winds or rains and it yield better. Those who have not acted upon our advice and haven’t made arrangements for draining out surplus water from their fields may get some of their crop damaged by excess water but that will only be known when crop is harvested and not now,” said the official adding that there are no big negative reports on maize from any area in the district and a good crop is likely to be harvested.

Similar views were expressed by a Nowshera based official though he conceded crop in some low areas might have been damaged due to excess of water as farmers are generally oblivious to drainage system in the fields.

KP produces around 0.8 to 0.9 million tons of maize annually. According to an estimate, Punjab and KP account for 84 per cent of the total maize production and 95% of the maize area. But while PAY of maize crop in central Punjab has gone up to 4600 kg, it is generally between 700-1200kg in KP.

This is disappointing when viewed in the backdrop of the fact that two locally developed hybrid maize varieties-Babar and Karamat- have yielded up to 4800kg per acre in the research farms.

KP’s share in countrywide maize production has been on the decline – it accounted for 68 percent of total maize produce in 1996 which decreased to 28 percent in 2006.

Maize farmers in KP have remained far behind than their counterparts in Punjab and they need to take advantage of the expertise of their Punjabi brethren for their financial prosperity and food security of the people.

According to a Swabi based farmer Hameed Khan, PAY in Punjab is high because they use first generation (F1) seeds, love mechanised farming and use latest production methods and have started commercial farming. “But in KP, farmers have lagged far behind on these indicators. Farmers use mostly second generation (F2) or even third generation (F3) seeds here. And it is known that yield from F2 declines by half, that of F3 comes to less than 1/3rd of the F1 potential,” he says.

“Another advantage enjoyed by the Punjab farmers is comparatively bigger land holdings and good financial position. They can invest more in standard seeds, fertiliser use and latest farming technology. Efficient crop rotation and modern agriculture technology there have made it possible for them to grow three crops while in KP, despite potential, mostly two crops are grown,” he adds.

The absence of support price mechanism, of official purchase centres and of maize processing plants in the province have discouraged farmers to invest more in maize cultivation.

There are two ongoing schemes from the financial year 2009 in the annual development programme: One, for adaptive research on new hybrid maize varieties worth Rs44mn; and two, maize hybrid seeds production through public private partnership but slow pace of the schemes is mitigating their impacts.

Both the public and private sector need to be proactive and establish seed laboratories and introduce new drought/air resistant maize seed varieties to increase maize production.

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

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