KARACHI: Speakers at the inaugural session of a science workshop underscored the need for investment in research, particularly in areas which would help strengthen country’s agricultural economy.

Titled Significance of nematode identification for better management, the two-day workshop is organised at the National Nematological Research Centre (NNRC) at Karachi University (KU) in collaboration with the Pakistan Society of Nematologists (PSN) and the Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF).

At the inaugural session of the workshop opened by acting vice chancellor Prof Khalid Mahmood Iraqi, experts highlighted why identification of nematodes (that feed on plants) was important and how this information could help farmers protect their crops from their attack.

In her welcome address, NNRC director Dr Saboohi Raza spoke about the aims of the event and said that it would help scientists share knowledge and learn from each other.

She also paid tribute to Prof Shahina Fayyaz, the former NNRC director, for her research contributions to the field of nematology.

Prof Manzoor Hussain Soomro, the PSN president as well as the head of ECO Science Foundation, informed the audience about works and services of the centre and the society.

“The identification of nematodes is the key to crop management. We need to upgrade our methodologies in this respect,” he said, sharing contribution of national institutions in the field of nematology.

According to speakers, nematodes are not closely related to true worms, though they are often referred to as roundworms.

They are multi-cellular insects with smooth, unsegmented bodies and the ones feed on plants are so tiny that one needs a microscope to see them.

Discussing nature of these nematodes, speakers said that some of these insects fed on the outer surfaces of a plant while others burrowed into the tissue. Soil-dwelling nematodes were the most common culprits, but some species could damage plant roots, stems, foliage, and flowers.

About damage to crops, it was pointed out that though they caused huge losses to crops, beneficial nematodes (that enrich the soil may feed on the decaying material, insects, or other nematodes) could be used as bio-control agents against harmful nematodes.

“This is possible only if you have the right identification of nematodes,” said Dr Tabbassum Ara Khanum, a senior research officer at the NNRC, adding that nematodes were unseen enemies and farmers needed to have required information and tools to minimise damage from these insects to their crops.

In his speech, Prof Khalid Mahmood Iraqi acknowledged Prof Shahina’s services and said one lab of the centre would be named after her.

He also emphasised the need for research and said the university was trying to do its bit in limited resources.

Twenty-five researchers from Pakistan Agriculture Research Islamabad, PMAS, Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi, Sindh Agriculture University Tandojam, University of Poonch, Rawalakot, AJK, Islamia University of Bahawalpur, Department of Agriculture LUAWMS, Balochistan, Department of Agriculture, Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan,Wheat Research Sub-Station Murree, Department of Plant Protection, Uthal University, are participating in the workshop.

Published in Dawn, December 31st, 2019