The PCRWR Research and Development Farm at Mera Katchori was established in 2009 to conduct site-specific research in water management under the PCRWR Regional Office, Peshawar. It consists of 12 acres of fertile land and is located near Tarnab Farms in the outskirts of the city of Peshawar. Canal water is allocated to the farm through an outlet and watercourse. Besides, it has adequate groundwater which may be pumped for irrigation if required. The land has been granted to PCRWR by the KPK provincial government free of cost for the research purposes. Since then PCRWR has took a number of initiatives to strengthen its capability for conducting research and development works. The salient developments include fencing, leveling of land, construction of lysimeter research station, improvement in farm layout, construction of office building, installation of drainage system, lining of irrigation channel and orchard plantation etc. A brief overview of each of the activity has been given in the subsequent sections:
The first task undertook by PCRWR after land acquisition was boundary demarcation and checking external interference. For this purpose 3 meter high fencing has been done around the farm. Similarly, the land was quite unleveled in the form of isolated fields which has almost been leveled to a certain level to better manage irrigation water for its controlled and uniform distribution. This is how additional 2-3 acres of land have become available for experiments and cultivation.
The R&D farm is located in the immediate vicinity of an irrigation canal wherefrom the allocated water of the farm is received through a watercourse. However, the lateral seepages from canal led to development of salinity and water logging at the farm. Initially it was envisaged that the salinity tolerant crops like sugarcane and maize etc at the farm would be raised there, exclusively on sub-surface irrigation. This is how the initial investment on installation of sub-surface drainage system would be saved for lowering of water table and eradication of waterlogged and saline conditions thereof. However, the need for installation of drainage system was thereafter deemed essential due to high salinity build up leading to considerable loss in yield. For the purpose, the prospects of installing sub-surface drainage system were explored but were not found cost effective. Therefore, a couple of surface ditches were dug at the farm of which one is parallel to the canal axis and the other in transverse direction to tap excessive seepages of the farm. The water collected in the ditches is being disposed of to a nearby drain through a sub-surface pipe (laid below the cultivation depth). For the monitoring of water table 8 piezometers were installed at different locations of the farm, which indicates that the intervention has resulted in decline of water table by 1 m, thereby eliminating the waterlogged conditions whereas the salinity would also go off with time as well. The ditches are cleaned regularly to maintain their draining capability.
An unlined watercourse existed to provide irrigation water to the farm by the KPK Irrigation Department. The watercourse was not only inefficient in delivering the required flows to different parts of the farm but also was contributing to the water losses thereby aggravating the waterlogging conditions at the farm. It was thereby deemed necessary to line the watercourse upto economical limits of 400 ft in order to improve its conveyance efficiency and reduce waterlogging. Up till the report compilation date, most of the lining work has been completed whereby channel has been developed into a rectangular brick lined section. This would improve irrigation efficiency of the farm besides lessening the impact of waterlogging.
Orchards have been reported to give maximum financial output to the farmers if intercultured with other crops. To propagate the concept, more than 100 fruit plants i.e. Citrus has been grown at the farm to evaluate their true financial rate of return and other implications. Appreciable degree of scattering was observed in tree plantation for efficient movement of tillage machinery and cultivation of crops in between. Required care and nurse was provided to young saplings in terms of in time irrigation, hoeing, application of adequate manures etc. Most of the plants have survived their initial stage of development and are expected to give yields within few years. This would not only increase farm income, besides beautifying farm outlook, but would let evaluate its plantation and growth implications and financial aspects as well.
Experiments to grow sugarcane, wheat and maize on conjunctive use of surface and some sub-surface irrigation are underway under controlled water table conditions. The recommended agronomic practices were observed in raising those crops in terms of necessary tillage, on time irrigation, application of adequate fertilizers, pesticides etc. The wheat crop harvested last year gave good yields, around 50 maunds/acre. Similarly, other crops health seems good, hence is likely to give promising yields as well.
One of the major research activities to be carried out at the farm is to determine water requirements of different crops under native agro-climatic conditions and evaluate crop productivity under different water table depths for local soils. For this purpose, a lysimeter research station consisting of a set of 12 lysimeters, is being constructed at the farm; however it could not have been completed so far. The progress of construction is too slow by the KPK -PWD department. The total cumulative progress up till the reporting date is almost 50 percent despite passage of 3 years as shown in the Figures. After completion of the research station, WRRC Peshawar would be able to conduct different water management studies for the region.