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Monday July 15, 2024

Pakistan expects bumper harvest of zinc enriched wheat

Total average wheat cropping area in Pakistan is around 9 million hectares and during the 2023-24 season

By M Waqar Bhatti
April 14, 2024
A farmer harvests wheat crops in a field in Pakistan. — AFP/File
A farmer harvests wheat crops in a field in Pakistan. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Authorities are expecting a bumper harvest of around 15 million metric tons of biofortified, zinc-enriched wheat during the 2024 wheat harvesting season in Pakistan after majority of farmers selected the biofortified wheat Akbar 2019 for cultivation due to its immense nutritional value, diseases resistance and 8-10 percent higher yield potential, officials and experts said on Saturday.

Total average wheat cropping area in Pakistan is around 9 million hectares and during the 2023-24 season, Akbar 2019 was planted on approximately 3.78 million hectares, they said adding that the expected produce is nearly 15 million metric tons.

“Akbar 2019 has been cultivated on nearly 42 percent of the wheat cropping area of Pakistan this year. The success is testament to over a decade long continued partnership with HarvestPlus” said by Javed Ahmad, Director at Wheat Research Institute at Ayub Agriculture Research Institute, Faisalabad.

The emergence of Akbar 2019, a wheat variety famous for its high zinc content, marks a significant turning point in Punjab’s agricultural landscape. This innovation has become the most popular wheat choice, highlighting the success of collaborative efforts in promoting its widespread adoption.

Akbar 2019’s journey began with the identification of its nutritional potential through micronutrient testing programs and strategic investments in early-generation seed production by HarvestPlus. A crucial partnership with the Wheat Research Institute in Faisalabad played a key role in its development and subsequent large-scale cultivation.

“The official release of Akbar 2019 in 2019 marked a new era for zinc wheat in Pakistan. A widely attended launch event, coupled with collaboration with seed companies and farmers, facilitated widespread adoption of this variety with significant nutritional potential”, Ahmed maintained.

“Building capacity for the production and distribution of certified zinc-enriched seeds was crucial for ensuring the sustained success of Akbar 2019”, said by Yaqub Mujahid, Country Manager at HarvestPlus Pakistan, adding that over 120 seed companies partnered to guarantee access to these seeds, even in the face of challenges like the 2022 floods.

Notably, over 90,000 tons of certified Akbar 2019 seeds were planted in the 2023-24 season, showcasing the growing demand for this nutritionally superior wheat variety. The farmer saved seed was in addition to this, Mujahid added.

Partnerships with value chain actors and digital media campaigns played a vital role in reaching millions of farmers and rural communities. These initiatives, along with journalist training programs, value chain seminars, and farmer field days, further amplified the impact and fostered awareness of the nutritional potential of Akbar 2019, he added.

The collaborative efforts of research institutions and advocacy efforts played a crucial role in integrating biofortified wheat varieties like Akbar 2019 into Punjab’s agricultural plans and seed subsidy program. This inclusion signifies the recognition of the nutritional value, diseases resistance and climate resilience, this variety offers.

Akbar 2019’s rapid ascent signifies the effectiveness of collaborative programs in accelerating the adoption of nutritionally superior crops at the farmer level. As future replacements are developed with even greater nutritional potential, continued efforts are vital to promote even more nutritious crops and build a more resilient agricultural future of Pakistan.

“This story exemplifies how collaboration, innovation, and advocacy can reshape wheat cultivation, address nutritional deficiencies by offering nutritious crop varieties, and enhance agricultural sustainability, ultimately nourishing communities across Pakistan”, the expert added.