A cost-effective technology has been developed by the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad and Jaffer Agro Services (Private) Limited for application of bioherbicide to control wheat weeds. This project was approved and undertaken under the ‘Technology Development Fund’ (TDF) of the Higher Education Commission (HEC).
The project entitled “Development of Bioherbicide Containing Allelopathic Bacteria for Biocontrol of Weeds of Wheat” was awarded to Dr Zahir Ahmed Zahir and his team at the Institute of Soil and Environmental Sciences, University of Agriculture Faisalabad (UAF), along with Jaffer Agro Services (Private) Limited.
The team had already identified useful strains of rhizobacteria, a root-colonising bacteria suitable to develop a bioherbicide, which may be applied to the wheat crop through the technology and a specified process. The team was also planning to offer it to the farmer community in a user-friendly form.
Wheat is Pakistan’s major crop, however, its annual production is witnessing 24 percent decrease annually by weeds causing Rs.37.9 billion loss to the country’ economy. Various weed control strategies are being employed, including manual weed control, which on one side is time-consuming and labour intensive, while on the other side is suitable only for crops grown in rows, besides causing crop injury and elevating the cost due to high energy inputs. Chemical control is time-saving and cost-effective, but it causes harmful environmental impacts, destroying beneficial organisms, pollinators, terrestrial and aquatic life in different ways.
Field trials of the technology conducted in collaboration with the industrial partner have already proven its ability to suppress weed growth and promoted wheat growth by more than 15 percent. It is estimated to increase 567 tons of wheat crop yield worth Rs.18.44 million annually by applying bioherbicide to only 15 percent of the total area under wheat cultivation.
Moreover, along with other multiple benefits to biodiversity, ecosystem and economy of the country, three million rupees can be saved from import of harmful insecticides and pesticides.
The project after successful completion will not only save import costs but establish ways to fulfil the objectives of multilateral environmental UN agreements to which Pakistan was a signatory, empowering the ambitions of the knowledge economy.
TDF is the first initiative of its kind by HEC to harness the expertise of academic scientists for commercially viable prototype and product development with an inbuilt mechanism to have industry partner.