KP sees a bumper harvest

KP sees a bumper harvest
By Tahir Ali

OFFICIALS of the agriculture department in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa say the province produced bumper sugarcane, maize and rice crops in the Kharif season and it hopes a good Rabi harvest on the back of more cultivation of wheat on arid lands throughout the province.

In the current Kharif season, the province had a bumper sugarcane crop, cultivated over an area of 94,370 hectares that produced 43,25,483 metric tons of cane. Land under cane cultivation and its production increased by 6.75 per cent and 7.35 per cent respectively against the previous year.
“The increase was because of a couple of factors. Plenty of standing cane crop had been devastated by floods in the preceding year. As the prices of sugar and gur went up in the last season, farmers went in large numbers for the crop this year. Then, many flood-hit lands were reclaimed either by the government or non-governmental organisations and the farmers themselves.
A blessing in disguise, the floods laid a healthy mud-layer over them on which cane was cultivated. Thus land under the crop as well as production increased,” said Siraj Muhammad, deputy director information, agriculture department, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Average per acre yield (PAY) in the province is between 16-24 metric tons (400-600 maunds), much lower than Sindh and Punjab and research stations which produce up to 32-40 tons.
Responding to a question on the less per hectare yield in the province, he said though quantity-wise Sindh and Punjab had better PAY, quality-wise KP’s cane was better as it had better sucrose level.
Another official, who wished anonymity, said the yield could not be increased when there was no liaison with farmers and no coordination between the farmers, and when most farmers resort to intercropping of wheat and cane, use less than the recommended seeds etc.
On maize performance, he said KP had cultivated the crop on 4,42,322 hectares, up by 4.6 per cent than last year and produced 8,04,575 metric tons, up by 8.6 per cent than last year. He said Swat, Dir and Mansehra were the biggest quality maize producers though it was also sown in Mardan, Peshawar, Charsadda and Swabi.
“While the PAY in KP is less than in Punjab, the farmers in the latter province grow mostly hybrid varieties and that too the spring crop wherein the crop gets more time and better climate to develop. Hopefully the trend of using high yielding hybrid seeds is gaining momentum in KP too which will increase total output and PAY in the coming seasons,” he hoped.
According to him, “KP had its rice production increased by 10.85 per cent to 86,471 metric tons and the rice acreage by 4.8 per cent to 48,351 hectares over last season. Swat and Charsadda are the biggest rice producers. Farmers in these areas had reclaimed their lands and cultivated rice on vast tract,” he added.
To a question that vast lands in Batkhela that were used for growing quality rice were still covered with sand and were uncultivable, he said it was because the farmers there utilised the riverbeds and its catchment areas for the purpose which were retaken by floods.
Though Muhammad had no data on the land under wheat cultivation for this year as according to him, wheat growing still continued in parts of the province and may go up to the first week of January, he said wheat was grown on 7,58,738 hectares producing 11,52,470 metric tons last year.
He was hopeful for the next wheat crop in the province, particularly in the rain-fed areas, saying that last year wheat production target surpassed because of rains. Though the meteorological department had forecast rains in December, the continuing dry spell has exposed wheat cultivated in arid lands on hundreds of thousands of hectares to dangers.
The wheat crop in rain-fed areas, especially in southern districts of KP where wheat is overwhelmingly cultivated on arid lands, has been attacked by termite. However, he downsized the danger saying there wouldn’t be any danger to the standing crop even if a light drizzle came down as has been forecast for the first week of January.
“In October this year, it had rained heavily which was not the case last year. Taking advantage of the soil-moisture for these rains, farmers cultivated wheat on vast areas of lands more than the preceding season this year and lush green wheat fields can be seen. The arid lands, which account for around 60 per cent of wheat cultivation areas in the province, are expected to produce bumper wheat crop this year,” he claimed.
Termite usually attacks and destroys wheat crop for lack of soil moisture, increased temperature and failure to treat seeds with anti-termite drugs before sowing.
“The situation in irrigated lands, accounting for 40 per cent wheat acreage, is even better. But farmers need to irrigate their lands before the canals are closed next week for desalination purposes. They should give enough attention to weeds control and use the required amount of suitable fertilisers to get bumper wheat crop,” he suggested.

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