The area of maize-soybean strip intercropping technology in Pakistan has increased significantly this season, with over 400 acres being cultivated, a growth of 2.67 times from the previous autumn. The intercropping system is also expanding to include more types of crops such as wheat-soybean and sugarcane-soybean intercropping.
A team of Pakistani agricultural scientists at the National Research Centre of Intercropping (NRCI) at Islamia University is leading the research on strip intercropping technologies with the aim of reducing Pakistan’s import bill of food commodities, particularly soybean, which has been a significant burden on the economy.
Harvesting is underway in the demonstration plots, and promising results are expected soon. Over 200 farmers have already adopted the technology, and the number is growing every day. Farmers are satisfied with the results and are contacting the NRCI to adopt the technology on more land.
Dr. Muhammad Ali Raza, Director of the National Research Center for Intercropping, IUB, and post-doc of Sichuan Agricultural University (SAU) states that he has become an expert in intercropping research in Pakistan after years of hard work. Under the vision of the IUB Vice Chancellor Prof. Athar Mahboob, the National Research Centre of Intercropping was inaugurated on August 11, 2021, to introduce strip intercropping technologies in Pakistan’s agriculture to improve crop yields and soil productivity. Dr. Muhammad Ali Raza is leading the center and popularizing intercropping technology in Pakistan.
The center has optimized the Chinese maize-soybean strip intercropping technology according to local conditions and conducted trials on the wheat-soybean strip intercropping. Additionally, the center is developing sugarcane-based intercropping systems to further enhance resource use efficiency and land productivity in the sugar belt of Pakistan. Recently, the center conducted trials of sugarcane- and wheat-based strip intercropping systems, including rapeseed, soybean, clover, and chickpea as secondary crops, while developing the intercropping-specific varieties of these crops.
The center is also researching different row configurations, particularly wider strips, to encourage the mechanization of strip intercropping systems with existing farm machinery in Pakistan.
Sino-Pak cooperation is a special feature of NRCI, with China’s support in agricultural education and training boosting agricultural productivity in Pakistan. This will not only stabilize the economic condition of the country but also provide a nearby and cheaper food source to China that could reduce food security pressure on China.
Maize-soybean strip intercropping technology was introduced from Sichuan Agricultural University, China to Pakistan in 2018, making better use of available space to increase the number of crops that can be harvested on the same area of land. This has helped Pakistan ease soybean shortage and cut down soybean imports.
This season, a new intercropping-specific soybean line has been developed by Dr. Muhammad Ali Raza and Dr. Zaheer Ahmed, in charge of the Soybean Lab at the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad (UAF). The new soybean line can quickly produce soybeans of 480 to 720 kg per acre in the intercropping system, compared to other soybean varieties that stagnate at 200 to 400 kg per acre.