At the conclusion of the celebrations marking the 30th birthday of Nuclear Institute for Agriculture and Biology (NIAB) at Faisalabad on Sunday, a review of its achievement claimed that it had developed and released a total of 22 varieties of crops by changing their breeding patterns.
The most popular among those had been a cotton variety called NIAB-78 that had, according to Dr Mohsin Iqbal, director of the Institute, "brought revolution in cotton production by increasing its yield from four million bales to about 12 million bales.
The tripling of the production had given a total income of 31.2 billion to the farmers in the country.
The report also spoke of varieties in rice, wheat, pulses and citrus and also pest control measures and work on the environmental protection and animal health and reproduction.
In separate brief comments on the Institute, Dr Kausar Abdullah Malik, member of Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission for Biosciences, spoke of the help provided by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and some other international funding agencies in supporting Pakistan's agricultural development programme.
He also disclosed that the PAEC was going to set up a nuclear agriculture institution in Balochistan.
The detail review on the gains of the NIAB, the report said that another cotton variety, NIAB-86, was evolved later, which is a low-input variety and suitable for cultivation on salt-affected soils.
Two years later, another high yielding variety NIAB-26 was developed but it later became susceptible to cotton leaf curl virus.
In 1996, variety NIAB Karishma was evolved, which is high yielding, better tolerant to insect pests, highly tolerant to cotton leaf curl virus and has better fiber characteristics.
In 2003, the variety NIAB-999, and in 2004 NIAB-111 have been released. Both are high yielding, heat and disease (virus) tolerant. The former is medium staple length (26 mm) while the later has long staple length (30 mm).
Basmati rice, because of its high quality, constituted about one third of rice export and the Kashmir Basmati, a cold-tolerant mutant variety, was released by NIAB for commercial cultivation in the northern areas in 1977.
In 1999, a non-aromatic and high-yielding variety NIAB-IRRI-9 was released which is highly popular with the exporters.
The Institute has developed nine varieties of mungbean, which are being cultivated extensively in western Punjab. These are 15 to 30 percent higher yielding than the conventional mungbean varieties.
The maturity period of some of these varieties is short; ie 70-80 days that make them ideally suited to fit in rice-wheat cropping system.
The NIAB has also released four varieties of chickpeas labelled as CM-72, CM-88, CM-98 and CM-2000, which are blight and wilt resistant and higher yielding and are yield stabilising.
PRIORITY: War against salinity and water-logging, two serious problems of agriculture, has a priority in NIAB that has tried to develop biological methods to economically utilise the waste saline lands and brackish groundwater.
The federal government has recently approved the upgradation of NIAB at a cost of Rs 189 million that will enable it to build more laboratories and to replace some of old equipment.
This will also give scientists an opportunity to work in more current and innovative areas.
The chairman PAEC has approved an agribusiness project with a loan of Rs 10 million with the prime objective of multiplication of seeds of crop varieties developed by the Institute.
All the land around various installations is now to be used for multiplication of seeds that will be made available to the farming community. This project, after one year, will be transformed into an incorporated company and will also expand its scope.
ANIMAL BIOLOGY: In the area of animal biology, NIAB has produced HS vaccines against Haemlorrhagic Septicemia (HS) disease of cattle and buffalo and Newcastle Disease of poultry.
Vaccines against infectious Bursal Disease, Avian Influenza and FMD are in the process of development. NIAB has also developed a feeding formula for ruminant livestock, known as "NIAB Feed Block".
Development of seedless Kinnow is another important project of the Institute. Seedless or sparsely seeded Kinnows are in great demand by juice industry and for export.