Pakistan academics sow seeds of cross-border agricultural cooperation

Beijing: Hafiz Muhammad Usman, a post-doctoral fellow at Guizhou University, felt a sense of gratitude that he could introduce the advanced agricultural technologies he learnt in China to his motherland Pakistan. Since 2017, Guizhou University has initiated the “Ph.D. Village Chief” program, and invited doctoral students, postgraduates and undergraduates to join the agricultural activities and apply their achievements in scientific research to agricultural development in rural areas, particularly back in their hometowns.

This year, it was the first time the university invited foreigners to take part in the “Ph.D. Village Chief” program, attracting five post-doctoral fellows from Pakistan and India, according to Wang Yong, professor and deputy director of the department of plant protection in the College of Agriculture, Guizhou University, Xinhua reported. Usman came to study in China in 2017 and gained his doctor’s degree at Huazhong Agricultural University in central China’s Hubei Province.

He decided to continue to carry out post-doctoral research at Guizhou University in 2023, and now serves as a fungal disease expert at the plant protection department. The key researches carried out by the College of Agriculture of Guizhou University are the creation of green pesticides, the continuous control of crop diseases and pests, as well as quality and safety management of agricultural products.

Pepper is one of the major agricultural produces in Guizhou. Over the past few years, pepper production had been affected as plant pathogens developed resistance to fungicides. Usman and other members of the research team took samples across the province and carried out experiments to find effective chemical alternatives to control drug-resistant fungal populations and increase pepper yields. In January this year, he went back to Pakistan for the winter vacation. During the one-and-a-half-month he spent back at home, he visited local agricultural departments and some villages.

He discovered that local farmers hardly mastered the technologies to deal with plant diseases and pests. He then organized three seminars with the support of local agricultural research institutes, sharing with more than 500 local farmers sustainable methods to control plant diseases. Besides seminars, he also walked into the fields and taught farmers on-site methods to recognize pests and diseases as well as to prepare pesticides in the correct proportion. Maqsood Ahmed, also a postdoctoral fellow and member of the “Ph.D. Village Chief” program at Guizhou University, hails from a major agricultural province of Pakistan, which mainly produces cereals and fruits, including maize, wheat, mango and banana.

During the winter vacation, Ahmed visited the agricultural department in his hometown and learnt about problems affecting local agricultural development. He organized several seminars in local universities to exchange advanced technologies he has learned in China with Pakistani teachers and students. Ahmed promoted green pest control techniques suitable to local crops.

Ahmed said that these techniques, including using biological control, pheromone traps and repellents, microbial pesticides, natural predators and beneficial insects, focus on managing pests in an environment-friendly and sustainable manner, minimizing the use of synthetic chemicals and reducing harm to non-target organisms and ecological systems. “We’ll continue to carry out international volunteer activities, strengthen agricultural technique exchanges with foreign research teams and contribute to the agricultural development of our Belt and Road partners,” said Pan Xuejun, dean of the College of Agriculture of Guizhou University. So far, more than 16,000 teachers and students of Guizhou University have taken part in the program, which played a crucial role in the province’s poverty-alleviation efforts.