By Ijaz Kakakhel
Researchers and agricultural scientists are experimenting on commercial production of a plant (Stevia) as alternate to sugar at National Agriculture Research Council (NARC), which will enable the country to get rid of sugar crises permanently.
The plant was imported from Canada on experimental basis, which is 300 fold sweeter than sugar, said Dr Shahid Masood Chief Scientific Officer NARC while talking to Daily Times.
It is especially for sugar patients because it has zero calories. At present “Stevia” is planted on about 2 acres area and has about 2000 plants. He said the plant has different species having different types of sweetness.
The scientist said that it was a premier plant having winter effect if grown in open areas but during summer the plant tends to sprout back. The Stevia dry leaves could be used in tea for sweetness for general consumption as well as for sugar patients, he claimed.
A private farmer in Islamabad also planted Stevia in over two-canal area. He said several sugar mills and private sector have contacted NARC for commercial plantation of the plant.
However, he said the multiplication was in progress at NARC and its application would spread across the country within two years.
About its commercial application, the scientist said if a sugar mill imported its sugar making plant, then on public private partnership it might be possible at large scale.
The plant was shown to a group of journalists who visited the NARC and were shown different types of new plants, hybrid seeds of cotton, tomatoes and many other products.
Addressing journalists Chairman Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC) Dr Zafar Altaf said efforts were being made to develop agriculture sector through innovations and hard work.
“Local farmers, scientists have to develop agriculture sector”, he said adding every type of water could be used for agriculture purposes after some initial treatment.
Referring to the example of NARC, where the drainage water of Chak Shehzad (Islamabad) was used (converted) for irrigation purposes.
At country level, about 23 MAF drainage water was wasted and suggested that it could be converted into ‘useable state’ for agriculture purpose through a process.
Regarding hybrid seed of cotton under tunnel seeds, the PARC chairman said the government was getting cotton crop two times in a year in Islamabad. After completion of this project, the NARC should be able to provide cottonseeds for about 300,000 acres areas. The NARC has a pharmacy where a number of plants were grown that were used for reducing blood pressure, anti allergy and a large number of others.
Dr Hafeezur Rahman Project Director High Density Pear Project told journalists that the country has 9000 hectors areas under production of different fruits and is getting from which 7.2 million tonnes of fruits. The average production remains 8.23 tonnes per hector while in developed countries the production is 20 to 25 tonnes per hector. To fill the per hector production gap, he said plants have to be grown on long distance using inferior type of plants.
To meet country’s requirements, he suggested either increasing sowing areas or increasing per hector production. He also showed different types of pears, grapes, guava and others.
The NARC has also worked on increasing the production of Olive Germplasm. DG NARC said there is a need for oil extraction machines from Olive plants so that the growers could get the final products at fields level.