Effects of climate change have shrunk Pakistan’s wheat production over the last few years, highlighting the need for research to develop climate-resilient seed varieties for better yields.
Wheat, which is a major food crop of Pakistan, is used in a variety of ways to make by-products. Pakistan used to be among the top 10 wheat-producing countries till recently. However, climate change has impacted the wheat productivity due to a variety of factors such as fluctuation in rainfall patterns, rise in temperatures and inadequate water availability. Talking about the factors contributing to low productivity, a senior scientific officer of the National Agriculture Research Centre (NARC) told WealthPK on condition of anonymity that heat stress was the biggest factor contributing to low wheat yield. “Wheat production is affected due to terminal heat stress caused by heat temperature.”
“March and April is the grain-filling time for wheat, but heat stress has shortened the grain-filling phase, resulting in low grain yield. An unusually low rainfall in February and March also reduced production, forcing the government to import wheat to meet the domestic need,” he said.
The NARC official further said that last year Pakistan had seen a bumper crop due to normal rainfall and moderate temperature.
However, during 2021-22, area under wheat cultivation decreased to 8,976 hectares (2.1%) against last year’s 9,168 hectares. As a result, the production of wheat declined to 26.394 million tonnes (3.9%) compared to 27.464 million tonnes last year.
The NARC scientist said, “To overcome these challenges, Pakistan will have to develop climate-resilient varieties of seeds that can withstand the adverse effects of climate change, water shortages and extreme temperatures.”
“Another solution is ensuring availability of inputs like good quality fertilizers and weedicides to growers, and managing water use. It’s the government’s responsibility to ensure on-time availability of inputs to farmers,” he stressed. The NARC scientist emphasised that the agriculture department should ensure availability of quality seeds to farmers.