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Agricultural scientists emphasised collaboration and enhanced work on climate-resilient

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At an international conference, agricultural scientists stressed the need for collaborative and enhanced work on climate resilience, high-yielding, and fortified varieties to ensure food and nutrition security amid the challenges of changing climate, ever-increasing population, and productivity.

They addressed the inaugural session of a two-day conference titled Emerging Technologies for Crop Improvement, jointly arranged by the Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics and the Center for Advanced Studies, University of Agriculture Faisalabad (UAF).

UAF Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Iqrar Ahmad Khan said there was a huge gap between the productivity of progressive and traditional farmers. We must promote the latest trends to raise per-acre productivity. He said the country imports wheat, whereas ten per cent of the average productivity will make us self-sufficient. He said UAF was developing climate-resilient wheat varieties in collaboration with Washington State University that would bring tangible results.

Founding Director Wheat Genetics Resources Center, Kansas State University US Prof Dr Bikram Singh Gill called for utilising plant breeding to cope with climate changes. He said that the centre’s gene bank, which maintains more than 5,000 wheat genetics stocks, offers opportunities for researchers to develop new genetic research that quickly improves crop yield, quality and food security.

Dr Kulvinder Singh Gill, a well-known scientist from Washington State University, USA, said that the world’s record for maximum wheat production is 17 tons per hectare. The world’s average production is limited to only 3 tons. He said that the world record maximum yield of rice is 22 tons per hectare, while the average yield is only 4 tons. He said that in his project, developing high-yielding varieties of heat tolerant heat-tolerant germplasm from the heat-stressed areas are collected, and their field trials have been conducted in India, Nepal, Pakistan and Egypt. He said that field trials of new varieties were also being carried out at UAF, which will yield positive results.

Sydney University Australia scientist Dr Richard Trerthowan briefed us about achieving higher yields with high-breed wheat.  He said that a hybrid with enhanced yield that is buffed by superior abiotic and biotic stress tolerance requires fewer inputs and produces a more nutritious grain.

Dr Alex Johnson from the University of Melbourne, Australia, said that two billion people worldwide suffer from iron deficiency. In contrast, zinc and other essential nutrient deficiencies are widespread.  He said they are collaborating with researchers at UAF to explore the potential of genetically modified iron wheat.

Director of the Program and Projects Department of the Islamic Organization for Food Security, Dr Zulfiqar Ali, said that only 7 of the 57 OIC countries meet the food security goals while the rest face food insecurity. He said that in 2019, the OIC countries faced a food deficit of 65 billion dollars while low-hanging food worth 300 billion dollars went to waste due to the unavailability of food processing and other factors.

Pro-Vice Chancellor UAF Dr Muhammad Sarwar Khan said that to face the agricultural challenges; we must foster modern trends and solid research. He said that the UAF was taking all possible steps in this regard.  He said that the country was blessed with four seasons and fertile land.

Dr Nazir of Tajikistan; Chairman Plant Breeding and Genetics UAF Dr Azeem Iqbal Khan, Dr Rizwana Maqbool, Dr Raheela Rehman; Director Research Dr Jafar Jaskani; Principal Officer Public Relations Dr Jalal Arif and others notables attended.

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