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Improving efficiency in agriculture

A NEW FAO study released last week has suggested development of supplementary basic spatial information on the distribution of various crops in digital form, better known as ‘crop masks’.

The study is in the second phase of ‘Crop Mask Development’ for major seasonal crops, in Punjab and Sindh, It is designed to develop the crop masks, showing spatial distribution of rabi (wheat and potato) and kharif crops (rice, sugarcane and cotton).

The report says the crop masks developed within this initiative are useful for monitoring changes in areas of kharif crops cultivated in Punjab and Sindh. The digital information on kharif crops will serve to understand the crop rotation system through satellite remote sensing data by applying spatial query with seasonal crop masks.


The development of crop masks integrated with an adequate information dissemination strategy will assist in increasing working efficiency by optimising manpower used and time consumed


This will also outline the well differentiated cropping patterns of rice-wheat, cotton-wheat and sugarcane areas. In addition, these masks will support the estimation of cropping intensity in various regions of Punjab and Sindh.

These masks will also be expedient for other geo-spatial studies regarding climate change variables leading to floods, droughts and other disasters.

Last but not the least, the development of crop masks integrated with an adequate information dissemination strategy will assist in minimising duplications of work and increasing working efficiency by optimising manpower used and time consumed, the FAO says.

The major cultivable area of Sindh is on the left bank of the Indus. This is a multiple cropping area, growing cotton, sugarcane, coarse grains, vegetables, chillies, tomatoes and rice. This is a more diverse cropped area than the right zone.

During the first and second field surveys of Sindh’s right zone, eight districts covered were: Kashmore, Larkana, Qambar Shahdad Kot, Shikarpur, Dadu, Jacobabad, Jamshoro, and Thatta.

The first survey for ground truthing of the filed data was undertaken during July 2016. The second survey for validation of the classified data was done during September 2016.

This right zone is a fertile tract with a pattern of highly intensive crop production. The summer (kharif) season in this region is predominated by the singular crop of rice.

Wheat is a secondary food crop of this area, grown in winter (rabi). Most of the remaining area is used to grow high value cash crops as vegetables and spices that are in high demand in metropolises as well as in the upcountry.

Crop masks were developed for kharif crops in Sindh and coverage included cotton, rice and sugarcane. The distribution of cultivated area varied under these crops. Rice was estimated at 1.23m hectares followed by cotton 0.77m hectares and sugarcane 0.29m hectares during the crop season of 2014-15.

The overall contribution of Sindh’s left zone at provincial level is 60.76pc rice, 17.9pc sugarcane and 4.54pc cotton.

Crop contribution to the overall crop masks at provincial level was estimated at rice (53.6pc) followed by cotton (34pc) and sugarcane (12.9pc).

Punjab is the basket of food and industrial crops as wheat, rice, sugarcane, cotton, maize, vegetables, fruits, pulses and a large number of high-value crops are cultivated here.

Suparco has distributed Punjab into four zones: north-east, central, south and Potohar zones on the basis of their cropping patterns. The Potohar zone consists of Attock, Rawalpindi, Jhelum and Chakwal districts.

Using high resolution data, masks were developed for 2014-15 kharif crops in Punjab. Cotton, rice and sugarcane crops varied in terms of area under cultivation.

Cotton was observed to be at the highest side with 2.38m hectares followed by rice (2.06m ha) and sugarcane (0.61m ha).

Punjab’s north east zone is the smallest and characterised by the dominance of basmati crop. The central Punjab has a mixed cropping pattern where all the three crops are sown and sugarcane is the most dominating in terms of area under cultivation.

Punjab’s south zone is more dominant in terms of cotton crop. Being rain-fed region, cotton, rice and sugarcane are not grown in the Potohar zone.

Contributions to the provincial crop mask were observed to be 47pc by cotton, followed by rice (40pc) and sugarcane (12pc).

Keeping in view the increasing population pressure in Pakistan, there is a need for improved management of the agricultural resources.

For this purpose, it is imperative to gather reliable data related to agricultural land use by crops and adaptive strategies can be fine-tuned through availability of reliable information at the local, regional and country wide levels.

Ahmed, Amin. Improving efficiency in agriculture. Dawn, April 25, 2017.

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