ISLAMABAD, Sept 7: A national conference on the role of space technologies for agricultural development has recommended to the government to develop a plan to shift from open field-based horticulture to controlled and managed high-value cropping systems.
The conference organised by Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) at the Institute of Space Technologies here on Friday, called for initiating commercial hydroponic systems being applied in numerous countries.
Hydroponic systems are almost non-existent on commercial scale in Pakistan which is already losing high levels of productivity and valuable returns in the form of foreign exchange, the experts said.
On a smaller scale, a private sector expatriate company had established a hydroponic system near Rawalpindi, however it was closed down and the facilities were handed over to University of Arid Agriculture in Rawalpindi.
The conference working group on innovative technologies urged the Punjab government to open up the facility as a model of demonstration for the benefit of farming community.
Noting that remote sensing and GIS are relatively new disciplines and their application in agriculture is likely to transform a large number of old concepts and also change the basis of agriculture statistics particularly fruits, vegetables and spices, the conference underlined the need to initiate training of agricultural graduates in these disciples, and recommended that remote sensing and GIS should be opened in all agricultural universities and research institutions.
SUPARCO was asked to undertake studies on rangelands, forests, wetlands, mountain agriculture and other disciplines which have so far remained untapped.
The working group land and water resources called upon WAPDA, the ministry of national food security and research and provincial governments to develop an integrated long-term soil reclamation programme to brought under cultivation the land affected water logging and salinity.
Taking into account the drainage system in Sindh which played havoc during 2011 floods, the group recommended setting up of a high-powered commission to study the failures of current drainage system and suggest improvement in design and delivery system.Regarding water resources, the conference urged the government to build up additional water reservoir capacity of 22MAF to supplement the water shortages during February-April period for maturing wheat crop in Punjab and sowing of cotton in Sindh and Balochistan.
The conference was not happy over the performance of the ministry of national food security and observed that it lacks professionals to devise policies on food security related issues.
A high-powered commission on agriculture should be set up to review performance of crops, livestock, poultry and fisheries to suggest long-term measures.
A task force should be set up to review performance of seed industry and suggest measures to promote the development of hybrid seed technology in the country. The regional restrictions on movement of quality seeds should be banned and the seed companies be allowed to work in the climate of competition based on quality, conference recommended.
Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of National Food Security Natasha Daultana, while speaking at the conference, stated that the application of space technologies has now become indispensable for the development of agricultural sector in the country.
SUPARCO Chairman Major-General (retd) Ahmed Bilal spoke about the appropriate use of satellite technologies for development of agricultural practices, and said that the focus of all work at SUPARCO pertains to monitoring of main agricultural crops during rabi and kharif seasons across the country.