December 27, 2011


Pakistani wheat crops under termite attack



Pakistan's standing wheat crop has come under termite attack in several districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, according to officials of Directorate of Agriculture Extension.


The attack was feared to attain serious proportions, said a senior official, in case the ongoing dry spell in the province persisted for some more weeks.


"The disease poses greater risks to wheat crop cultivated on clay-soil in Dera Ismail Khan, Tank, Lakki Marwat and Bannu," said Mohammad Tasleem, director general Directorate of Agriculture Extension, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.


Most areas of the province have been in the grip of dry spell in December this year, an unusual phenomenon as compared to previous years. Peshawar and other districts, as per the Pakistan Meteorological Department`s weather forecast, were expected to receive rains in the first and second weeks of December.


An unexpected dry spell that has set in place in the province has exposed thousands of wheat growers pursuing subsistence farming in the arid zones to dangers. Their standing wheat crop is in need of irrigation water, according to experts.


The problem, said Tasleem, was grave in the arid zones involving clay-soil than the areas with sandy-soil.


The director marketing of the Directorate of Agriculture Extension told Dawn on Monday that termite had attacked the standing wheat crop in patches due to non-availability of irrigation water in the arid zones of several districts.


"The attack can become severe in case there is no rain in the arid zones for some more days," said the director marketing.


Termite, said Tasleem, attacked the plant roots due to high temperature and because of less underground moisture. "The disease would subside in the arid zones in case of rainfall as it would increase underground moisture," he said.


He said that termite attack did not happen in areas with proper canal and tubewell managed irrigation systems. Farmers, he added, mixed medicines with the irrigation water to protect the plant roots from termite attack.


The director marketing said that in the arid zones farmers usually took preventive measures by treating wheat seeds. "The seeds, sown without the anti-termite treatment, are exposed to greater risks under the current dry spell," he said.


According to Tasleem, wheat crop has been cultivated on 706,750 hectares across the province, including 60% cultivation done in the arid zones and 40% in areas covered by canal irrigation and tubewells and dug-wells.


The province, said the director marketing, would run risk of recording low wheat crop produce in case the current dry spell continued till February in the arid zones.


"In February standing wheat crop would require greater quantity of irrigation water, otherwise, its development would be affected with the result that the province`s overall wheat crop yield might be affected," he added.


Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said Tasleem, had produced 1.15 million tonnes of wheat in 2010-11, when total cultivate area under the wheat crop was 724,497 hectares.


He said that farmers in arid zones of the province currently under threat due to the dry spell had cultivated `drought tolerant` wheat varieties, including Dera 98, Hashim, Tatara, Amin, and Kohat 2010.


"We need to have varieties that are drought resistant, which require less irrigation water," said an official of the agriculture department, requesting anonymity.

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