Crop productivity- yield per hectare- in Pakistan is lower compared to many developing countries with a similar resource base.
Therefore, modern research systems are required to increase farm productivity.
It is widely accepted that conventional research methods, extensively used during the green revolution era, now no longer offer solutions to the present day complex problems of pests, diseases, floods and drought stress. The rate of innovation in this sector has slowed down for the last few decades, turning the entire agriculture sector non competitive in the international markets.
Globally, agricultural research has made significant advances. It is predicted that the next breakthrough in agricultural productivity would be due to recent developments in plant molecular biology, genetic engineering and rapid advancement in genomics. The tools of modern biotechnology are precise and develop new strains of improved crop rapidly. The achievements in this field offer the potential to increase crop productivity, nutritional quality, improve tolerance against biotic and abiotic stresses, enhance resistance against pests and diseases, generating genetic markers, maps, and genomic information in marker assisted selection and breeding. Agricultural soils lose their fertility by nutrient mining because high yielding crops remove considerable quantities of nutrients from the soil by nutrient mining.
Although Pakistani soils are deficient in organic matter and essential plant nutrients, due to high temperature and intense microbial activity, the application of organic and chemical fertilisers is also inadequate. The unbalanced use and faulty management practices of fertilisers results in low efficiency. Under these conditions soil fertility management has become essential for sustainable agricultural systems so use of soil tests can make valuable contribution to the more intelligent management of fertility. The development of bio-fertilisers in combination with organic and chemical fertiliser may improve crop yields, reduce costs, and conserve land and water resources. But the demand for bio-fertilisers in Pakistan is insignificant due to uneven quality, short shelf life and absence of efficient distribution system. Fruits and vegetables are facing high post harvest losses and there is a need for improvement in post harvest handling technologies. Research efforts are required to overcome these shortfalls, and for this each organisation should have a clearly defined mission, considering national priorities and they should show results in specific time period.
Agricultural research is a critical driver of the national economy. According to a World Bank study, better research has added three per cent to world productivity since 1971. But Pakistani scientists claim that with better research, agriculture has a potential to grow at six to eight per cent annually against the current two to three per cent. Pakistan invests only 0.25 per cent of its agricultural output on research, when even India and Bangladesh spend twice that amount while the developed world invests three to four per cent. Pakistan’s agricultural research institutes are poorly staffed, offer limited career growth opportunities and little financial incentives even to the highly qualified scientists.
Most of the institutions lack access to quality literature and modern lab equipment to undertake quality research. Scientists have inadequate links with the international and national research and educational institutions. Pakistan must introduce a more knowledge intensive agricultural research system that would focus on technological innovations. Each institute should have a well-connected virtual library to provide comprehensive access to professional journals, scientific books and conference proceedings. There should be a common forum to point out and stop research duplications.
Research should be need based. In the future, agriculture would face bigger challenges and will require new technology. For this a reasonable number of green houses with controlled environments for conducting experiments should be installed in every institute.