Lahore, Pakistan: Like most developing countries, Pakistan is staring at the spectre of food insecurity, with its food production out of sync with population growth. The food availability scenario is further complicated by changing weather patterns with recurring severe droughts and floods that affect crop production.
“Pakistan urgently needs to revamp its crop yields forecasting and estimation system, if it is serious about tackling its food security”, says environmental expert Ibrar ul Hassan Akhtar.
In late 1970s, the provincial crop reporting services (PCRSs) came into being as independent organisation, and by the early 1980s, data collection techniques for both people and crops changed. With technical assistance from foreign agencies, a system based partially on remote sensing satellites came into being. Some projects based on aerial photography and spot satellite data were also executed but failed to establish their strength at the national level.
Pakistan needs to move towards a combined system of remote sensing, geographical information system (GIS), its improved national agro-meteorological network and the irrigation network.
Pakistan’s 30 agro-meteorological stations are inadequate to cover the entire cropped area, and there is not enough information on spatial pattern of such variables such as soil temperature, air temperature and localised rainfall as compared to rainfall recorded at a single meteorological station.
Remote sensing and GIS technologies will greatly help access remote areas and monitor crop conditions. This will serve as an early warning system for the decision makers by identifying drought conditions and possible low-crop areas due to different environmental stresses such as pests and disease outbreak, or improper fertiliser application.
The most significant benefit will be timely generation of reliable crop statistics before crop harvesting begins, with confidence that the estimates are correct in 95 per cent of the instances, and do not lag behind actual crop harvesting.
The new system should be based on modern agriculture information-based systems and in keeping with international standards of generating agricultural statistics. It should also factor in global forecasts for crop yields. Only then can the country hope to have agricultural and food security policies in place that meet current ground realties.