Modern techniques urged for boosting Sugarcane production

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan can boost sugarcane production sufficiently by adopting modern techniques, says a report published by WealthPK on Friday.

In Pakistan, there is a vast scope of increasing per hectare yield of sugarcane by adopting modern farming techniques and using new and better varieties of sugarcane which are drought-, salt- and disease-resistant.

Pakistan is the fifth largest sugarcane producer in the world, and the sugarcane-related industry is the second largest in the country after the cotton industry.

Chairman Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) Dr Ghulam Mohammad Ali said in an interview with INP-WealthPK that PARC is working on introducing new high-yield and disease-resistant varieties of sugarcane which would enhance per hectare yield by 30 to 40 per cent, and bring Pakistan close to the countries taking high yields like Brazil, India and China.

The per hectare yield of sugarcane crop in Pakistan hovers around 45 tonnes which in certain areas further dipped as compared to the yield up to 70 tonnes per hectare produced by other countries like Brazil, China and India.

Due to the better return of the crop, the area under sugarcane cultivation has been enhanced during the 2021-22 season and the sugar production forecast is set at 83.15 million metric tonnes (MMT), 14 per cent up by the forecast for the current year.

The last three years saw a gradual increase in the area under cultivation of sugarcane. In season 2019-20, sugarcane was cultivated on some 1.038 million hectares, and in 2020-21, it was cultivated on 1.175 hectares of land, while in 2021-22, some 1.27 hectares of land came under sugarcane cultivation.

The PARC chief said that besides working in collaboration with their Chinese counterparts on introducing new and better varieties of wheat, maize, rice and potatoes, their focus would also be on introducing new varieties of sugarcane which would be disease-resistant and can grow well in the areas facing water shortage and concentration of salts.

Giving details about the process of developing new varieties of sugarcane, Dr Ghulam Mohammad Ali said they are working on a few high-yield varieties brought here from China, Brazil, Panama and Thailand at the National Institute for Genomics and Advanced Biotechnology (NIGAB) to converge the good qualities of all these high-yielding varieties in a new variety which would grow well here.

He said that he was satisfied with the progress and initial results of the research, and expressed optimism that the new seed would come into the market for commercial use in the next couple of years.

Giving details about the working of NIGAB, the PARC chief informed that they were focusing on a host of other crops with the aim to bring improvement in their quality and yield as well as make the crop resistant to diseases and pesticides attacks.

“PARC is working on new crop breeding technologies, including speed cloning, speed breeding, genomic selection, and genomic editing for boosting domestic agricultural output, achieving food safety and security,” he explained.

During the current season 2021-22, sugarcane crop is cultivated on 1.27 million hectares of land with an enhanced production of 83.15 million metric tonnes (MMT).

Besides the sugar industry, sugarcane is also used in the production of pharmaceuticals, ethanol, bagasse for paper and chipboard manufacturing, and press mud — a source of organic fertiliser used in crop production. -INP