Vegetable crops are very important due to their higher yield potential, higher return and high nutritional value, suitability for small land holding farmers and better employment opportunities. In spite of population increase, land degradation and water scarcity, the world has to substantially increase food production in the years to come.
Even at present, the number of people in the world who are chronically undernourished exceeds 750 million. Asia particularly, must step up food production because this is the region with the highest increase in population. More than 35 kinds of vegetables are grown in numerous eco-systems in Pakistan from the dry zone to the wet zone, low elevation to high elevation, rain fed to irrigated and low input to very high input systems such as plastic houses. Although vegetables are a very important in Pakistan diet providing proteins, minerals and vitamins required for human nutrition, the daily per capita intake is low, being about 100 grams compared to the recommended consumption of about 285 grams.
At present the total cropped area of the country is 22.94 million ha. Out of this 55% is under food crops, 19% under cash crops and 6% under pulses. Vegetables constitute an integral component of the cropping pattern but the increasing pressure on food and cash crops has limited the area under vegetables to about 0.53 million ha, which is 2.3% of the total cropped area. They fit well in most farming systems due to shorter maturity period. However, in the past, development efforts in agriculture sector were primarily focused on production and development of cereal crops; in spite of the fact the vegetables provide maximum output per unit area.
Punjab claims largest area, which is more than 51.67% of the total area followed by Sindh (26.17 %), Balochistan (11.30 %) and KPK (10.86 %). Maximum area is grown under potatoes (109705 ha) of which about 88.50% occurs in Punjab. Next to potato is onion (108931 ha) of which 46.16% is cultivated in Sindh and 24.78% in Punjab. Chilies commanding an area of 55791 hectares are at the third position of which 84.09 % is cultivated in Sindh.
Dr. Muhammad Yaseen
Department of Agricultural Extension, College of Agriculture, University of Sargodha, Lahore-Khushab bypass road Sargodha
The major share in the production of vegetables including potato and condiments (onion, chilies, turmeric, garlic and coriander) is of Punjab (63.11%) followed by Sindh (13.92 %), Balochistan (12.31 %) and KPK (10.66 %). Punjab province has comparatively high shares both in area and production. The contribution of other provinces is significant in making the vegetables available in the market during lean period due to different production seasons.
Crop yield in Pakistan are low and a substantial gap exists between the potential yields and the yields at the farm level. Production can be increased either by bringing more area under crops or by increasing productivity per hectare.
By adopting suitable cultural methods and controlling the pests and diseases, it is possible to increase the per hectare production considerably. The factors responsible for low yield are:
- Lack of quality seed of high yielding varieties
- Narrow choice of cultivars
- High incidence of pests and diseases
- Enormous weed infestations
- Poor plant densities
- Low use of fertilizers
Vegetable seeds in Pakistan are produced by vegetable research stations, Punjab seed corporation and private enterprises but their share is very limited (7-15%). Most of the vegetable seed is imported from other countries. These include both open pollinated varieties and hybrids. Seed requirement and its availability are presented in Table 3, which clearly indicates that up 88% of seed is being imported annually.
Vegetable research is carried out mostly in the provinces under the Agricultural.
Research Institutes as well as the universities. At federal level, NARC is the major Centre of research on agricultural crops including vegetables. Some research on specialized problems is done at NIAB, NIFA (processing) and PCSIR laboratories.
Specific Problems in important vegetables:
Specific problems in economically important vegetables are given
Yield per hectare can be improved substantially if we overcome production problems.
Specific problems in vegetables
Crop Production Problems
- Chilies >Phytophthora root rot, viruses, aflatoxin
- Onion > Purple blotch, cultivar adaptability, weed infestation
- Tomato > Early blight, viruses, fruit borer, heat tolerance, orobanche,
nematodes, blossom end rot
- Peas > Powdery mildew, root rot, leaf miner, pod borer
- Cabbage > Head cracking
- Okra > Pod borer, yellow vein mosaic virus, jassids
- Cauliflower > Heat tolerance
- Cucumber > Powdery mildew, downy mildew, cucumber mosaic virus
- Brinjal > Shoot and Fruit borer
Research Technology Development:
The development of improved varieties of vegetables and standardization of their production technologies has made it possible for vegetable growers to produce vegetables in wider area and has improved the prospects of their supply. The goal is to develop environmentally safe and sustainable production technologies that can be adapted by the farmers to improve national productivity.
There is a need to bring about technical change in vegetable production by way of new varieties, better water management, improved soil fertility, integrated pest management and reduction of post harvest losses. It is also important to pay special emphasis on processing technologies such as dehydration to introduce new and convenient foods to the market, and also help to absorb seasonal production surplus.
While paying much attention to the research and development aspects of vegetable production, we must pay equal or greater attention to farmers who grow them. Their resources are very limited, productivity is low and they have hardly any bargaining power for marketing their produce. By providing training, new technologies, inputs and improving marketing avenues for farm products, the farmers can be rapidly transformed into a highly skilled, motivated, dynamic group that can adapt to the new open economic policies, become competitive in the market place and make a significant contribution to national economic development.
Different cultural practices have been standardized for yield enhancement of vegetables. Various technologies have been developed by NARS. Off-season vegetable production under plastic tunnel
- Tomato, chilies, cucumber and sweet pepper can be successfully grown under walk in plastic tunnel during off-season.
- Nurseries of tomato, chilies and brinjal can be successfully raised using mini plastic tunnels in cool seasons for early production of crops.
Weed management technologies
- Weedicide stomp E-330, sprayed as pre-transplanting in cabbage was very effective for weed control.
- Ronstar or Stomp E-330 sprayed after transplanting onion following one weeding after 60 days have been found to produce yield at par with weed free control.
- Weedicides stomp/ronstar sprayed as post emergence following one weeding after 80-90 days in garlic crop has been found to produce yield at par with weed free control.
Disease and Pest Management
- Collar rot disease problem in chilies can be considerably reduced if the seed and nursery seedlings are treated with Ridomil, the nursery is transplanted on higher ridges on well drained land and irrigation water is not allowed to directly touch the plants.
- Use of sex Pheromone trap e.g. Methyl Eugenol helps in reducing fruit fly attack.
- Cultural + chemical methods e.g. Seven dust + ash (1:10) effectively controls red pumpkin beetle.
- Application of about 4.8 t/ha of sugar cane trash as mulch after planting turmeric helps in keeping the soil temperature low, conserves moisture, suppresses weeds and improves germination, growth and significantly increases yield.
- Sawdust, when used as mulch, enhances the germination, growth and yield of ginger rhizomes.
Early nursery raising techniques
- Transplanting of cucurbits seedlings raised in polythene small bags produced early and higher yield as compared to direct seeding.
- Transplanting of tomato, chilies and brinjal raised in plastic trays give maximum crop stand with early and higher yield.
Intercropping techniques in vegetables
- Turmeric can be successfully grown as an inter-crop with cowpeas, okra and spring maize.
- Green onion + Cabbage.
- Onion and Chili.
Research work to determine more productive and remunerative cropping patterns has resulted in the following recommendation:
- Onion – Potato – Susana (Green manure) – Radish
- Potato – Onion – Sesbania (Green manure) – Radish
There is a possibility of introducing these intensive types of multiple cropping to small farmers in areas having good irrigation water.
Mushroom production technology
Production technologies for Oyster, Button, Chinese mushroom have been standardized and disseminated to farmers.
Awareness for kitchen gardening
Malnutrition, especially among the undeveloped and developing countries, is becoming difficult to alleviate despite significant research breakthroughs made in food production. One way to raise the quality of life of the people is to create awareness for nutritional importance among the people through training for kitchen gardening. Training courses for kitchen gardening have been organized by NARS to create awareness to utilize the front yards for vegetable growing.
Identification of natural pockets for off-season vegetable production
With the identification of frost free areas, off-season vegetables are being produced in the country to prolong their availability in the market.
- Autumn crop of onion can be raised through onion sets (15-20 mm diameter) as an alternative for seedlings in first week of September for production of bulbs in December.
- Central rhizome of turmeric sown whole as a seed has been found suitable for obtaining highest yield.
Agricultural Scientists have developed high yielding varieties and improved production techniques. The farmers have exploited very less potential of these cultivars.
The important aspect of technology management can be promoted through appropriate education and training. The linkage between researchers and farmers is helpful to accelerate the adoption of new technologies. It is only after successful application and adoption in the fields of resource-poor farmers that the benefits of these technologies and research development could be seen and felt.
IPM (INSECT PEST MANAGEMENT)
i) Weed management
The weed menace in vegetables is worse than for other crops since they are grown mostly on fertile and well-drained soils with frequent irrigation, heavy manuring and wide spacing. Generally, the summer and rainy season vegetables suffer more due to weeds as compared to winter vegetables. Therefore, research with special emphasis on weed control through organic mean is required.
ii) Insect/disease management.
. Several diseases and insect pests seriously affect vegetable production.
Cole crops like cabbage and cauliflower are attacked by diamondback moth, cabbage butterfly, cabbage semi-loopier, etc. Aphids are the main pests on root and Cole vegetables. Thrips are important on onion. Fruit and shoot borer is a widely distributed pest mainly on eggplant (brinjal) and a very serious one. Epilachna beetle attacks eggplant, and red pumpkin beetle is a common pest of cucurbits. Melon fruit fly is active throughout the year in various parts of the country. Spotted boll worm and jassids are serious pests of okra. Tomato fruit borer is quite serious throughout the country. Root knot nematodes seriously affect most vegetables, particularly in light soils, and cause considerable damage.
Insecticides dominate in the strategy of vegetable pest management in Pakistan. However, care is required in selecting safe pesticides to fight pests attacking vegetables, because residues left on the plants may cause health hazards to people and animals. Varieties resistant/tolerant to pests need to be developed. Integrated management of disease and insect pests in different vegetable crops also needs to be developed systematically.
Since there is an overuse of hazardous insecticides, raising environmental concerns and risks of direct poisoning, research on integrated pest management with minimum use of environmentally friendly insecticides has to be undertaken as a priority.
National Agricultural Development Plan
In view of past developments, problems envisaged and the country’s future needs, the agricultural development in Pakistan should be planned (1) to increase the production of vegetables, to attain self-sufficiency; to increase the exportable surplus
Vegetables will become increasingly important in supplementing the food and nutritional needs of the people. Unless the productivity of the land is substantially increased there will be a shortfall in vegetables to meet domestic requirements. As employment opportunities for the family unit increase, there may be an increased demand for processed vegetables in the coming years. Future strategies in vegetable production must also consider increasing demand for export. This has to be supplemented through crop improvement and better management practices that can increase the productive capacity of the limited land and water resources, to meet domestic requirements and the potential increases in exports.
An increasing awareness and sensitivity to environmental pollution and health hazards due to the excessive use to pesticides has stimulated integrated pest management methods in vegetable production which will be vigorously pursued.
Most significantly, increasing productivity will not be rewarding unless technologies are speedily developed for processing of vegetables, and the establishment of industries at the village level to generate employment and increase incomes of the rural people. Every endeavor is therefore, being made to initiate research to develop simple agro-based industries that can be established in farming communities.
Policy of vegetable research has to be focused on solving chronic production problems through development of improved disease and pest resistant, short-duration and widely adaptable varieties to fit into various cropping systems in different agro ecological situations, and development of appropriate agro techniques and plant protection measures. Seed technology research and standardization of the technology for export- oriented production has to be given special attention. There is a need for improving and strengthening the seed-producing agencies for better quality seed production and supply.
Breeders’ seed production programs by institutes and agricultural universities need to beaugmented. Hybrid seed production at lower cost should be encouraged.
Extension programs on improved technology of vegetables have to be strengthened. Extension workers need to be fully trained in vegetable production technology. Vegetable production programs should also be linked with other rural development programs. Awareness programs on home gardening should be started.
Irrigation potential has not been properly exploited for vegetable production.
More tube wells should be installed and water-saving devices like drip irrigation should be encouraged. Rain fed and riverbed vegetable production should be promoted and research on these aspects should be intensified.
Research on production technology of hybrid vegetables and seeds, development of varieties rich in nutrients, improved shelf-life, resistance to diseases, insect pests, drought, heat and frost, etc. will need more emphasis and concerted efforts.
There is good scope for entering the international trade in fresh vegetables and processed products. This will involve development of suitable varieties of vegetables for export as per specifications and requirements of the importing countries. Post-harvest technology development of value-added products as a whole needs considerable improvement.
There is a demand for both fresh and processed vegetables especially in the Middle East and European markets. There is yet no industry for processed vegetables either for local or export markets. However, export of fresh vegetables started in the early 1970s. Fresh vegetables, mostly indigenous types such as pumpkin, bottle gourd and bitter gourd have better export potential.