Pak-China cooperation in Biohealth Agriculture to flourish
by Wang Kai
XIANYANG, Dec. 18 (China Economic Net) - "After thirteen years of endeavor from both Pakistani and Chinese sides, the Pak-China Biohealth Agriculture Demonstration Park was finally inaugurated this year", said Professor Zhang Lixin from Northwest A&F University, China in an interview panel with China Economic Net (CEN).
The interview panel was also attended by Prof. Dr. Muhammad Ashraf, Honorary Chairman of Pak-China biohealth cooperation project, Ex-Chairman of Pakistan Science Foundation, and Vice Chancellor of the University of Lahore, and several other renowned Pakistani professors, business leaders, and Ph.D. students studying in China.
The concept of “Biohealth Agriculture” (BHA) was put forward by Professor Zhang Lixin in 2017 at the first International Symposium on the Belt and Road Bio-health. It refers to a modern way of agricultural production that employs advanced biotechnology and processes and can be applied to crop cultivation, livestock farming, rural tourism, farm produce, etc.
Subsequently, Silk Road Biohealth Agricultural Industry Alliance and China-Pakistan Agricultural Biological Resources Research Center were formed in a bid to provide safe and green biohealth agricultural produce.
The recent third International Symposium on the Belt and Road Bio-Health draws the participation of 54 Pakistani scientists.
“The demonstration park is more than a limited stretch of land. Rather, it is a platform that facilitates Pak-China cooperation in scientific research, talent cultivation, international exchanges, and technology transfer”, Professor Zhang told China Economic Net.
“The agriculture sector in Pakistan faces major challenges like depleting water resources, lack of technology and innovation, and low quality of seeds. Therefore, biohealth agriculture practices should be promoted, as they will not only support Pakistan’s food security, but also help export to China and other countries”, analyzed Naheeda Begum, Botany Ph.D. in Northwest A&F University and currently a post-doctoral candidate of Nanjing Agriculture University.
In the universities of Lahore, Faisalabad, and Bahauddin Zakariya, demonstration sites have been established. An assortment of food, such as maize, wheat, chili, carrot, and spinach are under research. Nano and earthworm fertilizers have been introduced. For example, new wheat varieties that combine Chinese and Pakistani germplasms and have the potential to increase the yield by 2.7% per annum have accounted for 3% of the total in Punjab.
Wheat field for research under Pak-China Biohealth Agriculture Demonstration Park [Photo provided to CEN]
“Farmers are impressed by our technology”, said Prof. Dr. Muhammad Ashraf. For example, a private company has delivered exciting results in promoting the “zero-tillage technology”. “With our zero-tillage technology, crops can be planted on undisturbed soil. Aided with the multiple-cropping system and rotation, it can maintain the prime condition of the ecological system in the soil, which accumulates a large amount of biomass and microorganism”, Prof. Dr. Muhammad Ashraf introduced to CEN. “We tested that technology for 2 years. At the initial stage, there was no difference with the conventional method. But later on, its effect in preserving the soil condition manifested”.
For now, three Pakistani students are committed to their construction. “In the near future, more Chinese and Pakistani students will be involved”, said Professor Zhang. “The flourishing of the biohealth agriculture also requires the participation of more enterprises”.
Training for Pakistani farmers and land owners under Pak-China Biohealth Agriculture Demonstration Park [Photo provided to CEN]
Looking ahead, Naheeda recommends more workshops to be organized in different regions of Pakistan to raise the awareness of farmers and landowners. “Also, the modern techniques in China like compound planting, smart agriculture gain, greenhouse and good varieties should be applied in Pakistan”.