The maize plant is innate to America. It is a staple food native to America. The Columbus people found this grain in Cuba in 1942.
By Shagufta rasheed
Maize is the highest-yielding crop in the world and ranks third amongst most grown cereal crop. The maize crop is a drive of the US economy, contributing about 35% of the total world maize production. About two-third of national output is produced during Kharif season, maize is the only cereal crop that grows among other staple cereal crops which grow in both Kharif and rabbi season. Khyber Pakhton Khan (KPK) was the source of half of the national corn output till the mid-eighties. At that time corn was grown in the northern parts of the country mainly for human consumption.
Now, Punjab and KPK are the two major provinces for maize production in Pakistan. Both provinces contribute almost 97% to total production of the maize crop in country. Only 2 to 3% maize grains are produced in Sindh and Baluchistan provinces. Maize crop also gain an importance in Azad Kashmir, about 0.122 million hectares area is under the maize production in Azad Kashmir.
The yield of the corn since 2000s, has multiplied over three times, and the yield of the cotton crop declining. Over the past few years, in the provinces of Punjab and Sindh, the water shortage for Kharif crops is increasing. This also caused the water shortfall for Pakistan’s major cash crop ‘cotton’. Cotton is a major source of foreign earning, because cotton supplies to textile manufacturing industries as a raw material which is a major exporter of Pakistan’s economy.
The shortfall of water directly damages the other Kharif crops as well. Sugarcane and rice are also extensive water-consuming crops. For maize cultivation, irrigation water is one of the important components to get a higher yield otherwise production will decrease. One of the researchers found that single irrigation negligence during the sensitive growth stage caused the 40 percent loss of maize grains. Pakistan soon falls into those countries group where water is scarce, because the water shortage problem is growing in the country. Pakistan would be a water-scarce country in 2025 predicted by the International agencies.
Unexpected and high rainfall is also one of the reasons which declines the yield of Kharif crop. Water stress has a large effect on maize yield during fertilization and pollination. Usually, the high temperature did not create a problem for corn during pollination and kernel development. But when the soil moisture is adequate then high temperature affected the corn and also during drought-stressed pollination. Nowadays the soil fertility of agricultural land is decreasing which caused the low productivity of the crop. Nitrogen and phosphorus are the most important nutrient to obtain a better yield of the maize crop. To enhance the fertility of the soil proper amount of macro and micronutrients should be used and increase the yield of various crops.
Maize has also become a competitor crop to other major Kharif crops like rice and cotton. Several districts in Punjab and Sindh which are famous for cotton production have revolted against cotton and producing maize and other vegetable crops due to several factors, like shortage of irrigation water, climatic problems, issue of seed for growers, availability of inputs, price instability, etc. The Vehari district is famous for the cotton production in Punjab, it was a common claim that Vehari alone produced 80% of Sindh’s cotton production but now Vehari revolted to maize. The profit farmers received from maize production is double that of cotton. It is a short-period crop, which harvests only in four months.
The target for maize crop was set by the federal committee in 2020 at 5012 thousand tones and the production was 7800 thousand tones. The target was set for the Kharif crop to ensure food security. The availability of maize seed was 52.196%. This year the institutional credit had increased to Rs1.350 trillion. In Sahiwal the maize and millet research institute came up with four new open-pollinated varieties for small-scale farmers in the maize growing regions of Pakistan. The agriculture research institute in Baluchistan has released six new maize varieties which are more yielding and resistant to drought. All these new varieties are more useful for increasing the yield and enhance food security.
Punjab’s rabbi maize crop achieved an average yield of up to 8 tons per hectare, while KPK’s Kharif crop is stuck under 2 tons per hectare. The corn crop in Pakistan faces a spiral in price in coming years as the price of poultry increases across the country has shown. Contract farming in the maize crop is also famous in the areas like Pakistan which lacks the efficiency of the marketing system. The contract farming is famous among maize growers in Pakistan. There is no significant difference observed in the productivity and income between contract and non-contract farming. The only difference is that by contract the companies offer the transportation facilities and provide inputs.
Maize is highly nutritious crop. Maize contains the starch 72% which highly used in the industries. It contains protein 10%, oil 4to 5%, fiber 5.8% sugar 3% vitamin A and B 3 to 5% and ash 1.7%.
Maize is also a significant crop in Pakistan. Poultry sector used about 60% of the total production of maize and 25% of the total production is used by wet milling and other businesses. The left over maize crop is used as a food and fodder for humans and animals. For silage purpose about 45 maize crop is used. Demand for maize crop is increasing every year for making silage.
Maize crop has various health benefits.
B-complex vitamins are good for proper digestion, brain, heart, hair, and skin. The joints mobility is improved by these vitamins. The presence of vitamin A, K, and C with beta-carotene make the functions of the thyroid gland and immune system better. Silk is used to treat kidney stones, urinary infections, and fluid retention in many countries like India, China, France, Spain, and Greece. Silk is also used as a good emollient in wounds, ulcer, and swelling. Silk, leaves, and roots are used for nausea, bladder problem, and vomiting. For managing blood pressure, blood sugar, and reducing cholesterol level corn silk provide an anti-oxidant. By taking one tablespoon of maize oil the requirement of essential fatty acid is fulfilled for a child or adult. The GNA lectin is present in the maize which is used as anti-HIV. It also helps in weight control by reducing the food intake due to the presence of resistant starch in maize.
Maize is an important crop for the countries that are food insecure. Pakistan is one of the food insecure country. Maize can be used as a food for human being and enhance the food security. There is a need in Pakistan to increase the domestic production of hybrid seeds so that easily available to the farmers to reduce the cost of production without compromising on average yield.