CABI in Pakistan is helping the Pakistan Museum of Natural History (PMNH) showcase the scourge of the noxious parthenium weed, otherwise known locally at ‘Gajar Booti’, to members of the public visiting its Bio Gallery exhibit.
Parthenium is regarded as one of the major threats to native species, environment and ecosystems in more than 48 countries around the world – including Pakistan where it is also considered as a risk to human health, biodiversity, agriculture, livestock, and food security.
CABI has recently shared its expertise in a new parthenium evidence note which highlights a list of recommendations to fight the highly-invasive weed can cause severe allergic reactions in humans and livestock, may harbour malaria-carrying mosquitoes, displace native plant species and reduce pasture carrying capacities by as much as 80% to 90%.
In this picture special, we commissioned photographer Asim Hafeez to capture CABI scientists in the field as part of research which is investigating whether or not the parthenium leaf beetle (Zygogramma bicolorata) can act as an effective biological control for parthenium which is threatening food security and livelihoods in Pakistan.
Cotton is Pakistan’s largest industrial sector and is a principle cash crop to millions of smallholder farmers who rely upon it to earn their livelihoods.
However, per acre yield and the profitability of the crop is dependent upon the quality of the sown seed as part of the principles of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and proper crop management. Indeed, it is a sobering thought that the industry is losing between 10 to 15 percent of its value (around $350 million a year) through poor production, transport and storage practices.
Part of the problem stems from the poor selection of healthy seed with a high germination ratio. Usually in Pakistan, seed is available in local markets which are not properly checked by the agriculture department as well as by farmers for quality and germination before sowing. To break this mindset, CABI is trying to train farmers to follow a more scientific way, bringing about a change in their routine agricultural practices and adopting a better way to grow cotton.
Apple codling moth and apple spider mites are one of most serious pests of different fruits, especially its deleterious effects on apple trees, which poses economic threat to apple production in the region. Codling moth was recorded as the most serious insect pest of the apple industry in Balochistan when the project conducted a baseline survey in 2015.
More women in the Gilgit Baltistan (GB) region of Pakistan are benefiting from a Phytosanitary Risk Management Programme (PRMP) aimed at using a range of biological controls to fight the fruit fly pest which can impact heavily on rice and horticultural crops.
PRMP, which is funded by USAID via United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), was initiated in GB in 2016 with the purpose of implementing the biological control of fruit flies in the region. A Biological Control Laboratory was established to develop mass rearing technologies to facilitate the augmentative releases of the Biological Control Agents (BCA) of fruit flies Dirhinus giffardi and Diachasmimorpha longicaudata. So far, around 400,000 BCAs of fruit flies have been released in the region to control the pest.
Pakistan’s agriculture sector plays a central role in the economy of the country as it contributes 18.9 percent to the GDP. Almost 42.3 percent of its population is directly involved in this sector of which 73.8 percent employment is held by women.
Aflatoxins are a group of toxins produced by certain fungi found in crops such as maize, peanuts, cottonseed and tree nuts. The fungi responsible, Aspergillus flavus, can contaminate crops before and after harvest as well as contaminate animal products if infected feeds are given to livestock.
Consumption of these toxins in high concentrations can contribute to stunting growth in children and cause liver illness with fatal consequences. Estimates of deaths due to aflatoxin ingestion range up to 100,000 or more per year worldwide.
In part one of ‘CABI on cotton’ we heard about 100 Pakistan cotton farmers, as part of CABI’s Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), attending a seminar on integrated pest management. In part two, we hear a couple of success stories from farmers on how taking part in BCI is helping them produce better cotton.