Pakistan is rightly proclaimed as an agricultural country. Agriculture is the largest commodity producing sector and mainstay of the country’s economy. Wheat as a main staple food crop of Pakistan is grown on about 8 million hectares every year. It is a Rabi (winter) crop and replaces rice and cotton in rice-wheat and cotton-wheat systems, respectively. Rice and cotton is grown on 2.4 and 2.9 million hectares every year, respectively. Pakistan’s population is increasing at an alarming pace and it has reached to about 150 million already. Resultantly, with the exception of few years, Pakistan had to import wheat from international market on expense of huge foreign exchange to meet food requirements of its burgeoning population. It is, therefore, imperative to enhance wheat yield by encouraging farmers, predominantly small farmers, to grow more wheat
with efficient and judicious use of land and water resources. Land and water resources especially for agricultural purposes are getting scarce day by day due to mismanagement. This water deficient scenario is also posing serious threats to food security for generations to come. A shift in the production techniques intervening flooded irrigation methods for efficient utilization of resources is being recommended and same has been actively adopted in many courtiers of South Asia. The resource conservation technologies (RCTs) mainly include bed planting of wheat, sowing of wheat following zero tillage technology, bed and furrow sowing of cotton and management of crop residues. Laser land leveling adopted in Pakistan has shown encouraging results under zero tillage technique wheat is sown using residual moisture with no or minimum tillage without irrigating the fields with the aim to sow wheat in time after rice, conservation of water, and reduced cultivation cost. The technology has been adopted on about one million hectares and presently farmers own more than 5,000 zero tillage drills. Similarly, crops especially cotton is being planted on the raised beds to minimize water losses caused in the flood irrigations. Although these technologies are being adopted on wide scale, yet some quarters are still showing their concerns regarding weed control, pest management and impact on soil structure in relation to adoption of such technology in rice-wheat system of the Punjab. Other faction of scientists/experts is advocating adoption of zero tillage in the country because of embedded benefits of these technologies; for example, efficient use of water and other inputs, cost effectiveness compared to conventional methods of sowing, reduced consumption of diesel and above all, advancement of planting date of wheat by reducing turn around time between wheat sowing and successive rice crop. Latest dimensions of zero tillage and bed planting are also being highlighted in favour of this technology including improving soil biodiversity, reduced air pollution, mitigation of environmental degradation after residue burning, and carbon sequestration.
Keywords: Irrigated farming; sustainability; resource conservation; productivity; Punjab; Pakistan.