The news: China has developed an intercropping technology that can increase the yield of maize and soybean in Pakistan. The technology uses maize-soybean strips and is set to be implemented all over Pakistan. The increased maize yields and supplemental harvest of soybean will not only lower the need to import it for domestic use, but also improve Pakistan’s food security.
Intercropping: Professor Yang Wenyu, of Sichuan Agricultural University, Chengdu developed the intercropping technology, which utilizes maize and soybean crops to protect each other by planting them in the same field. When intercropping is used with these two crops, they complement each other’s growth and yield better quality. Maize gives shade to soybean and minimizes the impact of high temperature and the soybean’s nitrogen fixation fosters growth in the maize crops.
Implementation in Pakistan: Professor Wenyu pointed toward the brotherly relations between Pakistan and China and offered to aid Pakistan in expanding its soybean yield. Wenyu’s team has been helping two Pakistani students at the university, Muhammad Ali Raza and Sajad Hussain, technically as well as financially, to demonstrate the benefits of this intercropping system since 2018. The students have also implemented and promoted this practice in their hometown.
Pakistan’s crop yields: According to Wenyu, Pakistan can increase its yield of maize up to 10,500 kg per hectare by using the maize-soybean strip intercropping technology. This technology will also yield 1,350 to 1,650 kg per hectare soybean harvest in well-irrigated areas. The production of maize can reach up to 6,000 kg per hectare and that of soybean can reach 4,500 to 1,500 kg per hectare in the rainfed areas of Pakistan.
Benefits to agriculture: These increments would ideally occur in the 1.3 million acres of land currently used to plant maize crops only. Pakistan has a growing population and a limited area of land that can be used for agriculture. This is why planting two crops in the same field can increase production along with other benefits. The country’s agricultural areas are also affluent with sunlight which is an encouraging factor in the growth of soybean crops. This increase in domestic production would result in a considerable economic advantage for the farmers of Pakistan.
Around the world: Wenyu believes that while many countries are researching intercropping means, maize-soybean strips might be the only tried and tested method currently available to farmers. In addition to its promotion and usage in vast agricultural areas of China, it has also been introduced to Sweden in Europe and Ghana in Africa. In Pakistan, they have been exhibited in Bahawalpur, Chakwal, Islamabad, and Layyah. Professor Wenyu’s team is also collaborating with Pakistan’s National Agriculture Research Center and PMAS-Arid Agriculture University to arrange large scale utilization of maize and soybean intercropping.