ISLAMABAD – Two top scientists from the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are in Islamabad this week to lead the annual review of the U.S. -Pakistan Cotton Productivity Enhancement Program (CPEP).
The dynamic program is an international collaboration with a consortium of Pakistani government and university research facilities, USDA, and the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dryland Areas (ICARDA). The primary goal of the program is to study the Cotton Leaf Curl Virus (CLCuV) and promote best management practices of the virus, as well as identify new sources of resistance. The study of CLCuV is crucial in Pakistan, since it has caused major losses to Pakistan’s cotton industry, both threatening Pakistan’s economic stability and food security.
Dr. Brian Scheffler, USDA’s Lead Scientist for the program, described some of the groundbreaking research that has been done under the program: “This partnership has identified new sources of resistance in cultivated cotton, which will be critical to maintaining long-term virus resistance while ensuring high levels of production. Under this program, the scientific team has also developed the first laboratory diagnostic test that confirms the presence of CLCuV and distinguishes it from other viruses with similar symptoms.”
Dr. Jodi Scheffler, USDA’s CPEP coordinator also noted, “More than 6,000 small farmers in Pakistan have participated in trainings on best management practices for cotton production under this program. Employing practices that decrease the prevalence of the virus in the field, will lengthen the time the resistant varieties remain effective.”
Both scientists remarked on the success of the new monitoring techniques to track the spread of CLCuV and the high level of collaboration among research institutes in Pakistan. USDA’s Agricultural Counselor in Pakistan, David Williams highlighted the importance of the visit saying, “The cotton crop provides critical income to small farmers in Pakistan and contributes to the textile industry, a vital component of the Pakistan’s national economy.”
Agriculture is Pakistan’s second largest sector, accounting for over 21 percent of GDP. It remains by far the largest employer, with 46 percent of the labor force working in the sector. For the nearly 62 percent of the Pakistani population in rural areas, agriculture is a vital part of daily life. USDA supports Pakistani scientists and farmers to enhance agricultural productivity in Pakistan, support economic objectives and meet food security needs. The project also received funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
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