KARACHI -  Professor Hans-Werner Koyro from Geissen University Germany has said that climate changes are leading to major disasters such as floods and drought.

Expressing his views at the International Workshop entitled, ‘Sustainable Development and Environment Protection’, organised by the Institute of Sustainable Halophyte Utilisation, University of Karachi with the support of Pakistan Academy of Science and University of Karachi here on Sunday, he said that these environmental changes threatened to cause major food crises for the growing world population.

“In many countries such as Germany and Brazil there is an increasing tendency to use food crops like maize and sugarcane to produce bio-fuel,” the professor said, and added, “However, food versus fuel dilemma has to be addressed in order to ensure food security for growing the world population.”

He further said that in order to meet these changes, there was a need to find biological solutions.

Students and young faculty members from various departments such as Botany, Geography, CEMB and ISHU as well as from Lasbela University of Water, Agriculture and Marine Sciences attended the hands on workshop and seminar sessions during the event.

The aim of the workshop is to create awareness about global environment changes, which are threatening health and food security.

International experts in the field of Ecophysiology and Agricultural Sciences conducted the presentation and training sessions.

Faculty members of ISHU conducted practical training sessions under the guidance of Prof Hans-Werner Koyro in various groups to work on monitoring ionic, osmotic, oxidative and photosynthetic mechanisms on different types of stress tolerant plants as tools to evaluate responses to environmental stresses.

Halophytic plants growing at the Institute were used to conduct analysis with state- of-the-art instruments and techniques.

In addition, pitfalls in data interpretation for high stress tolerant plants which could sometimes be quite complex were also reviewed.

Students, divided into various groups based on their specialization and research interests, presented the logic and justification for their work plans and discussed underlying questions that they expected to be answered by their research in the light of global environmental changes and how these changes could be encountered through their scientific research.

The discussion sessions and work plans were coordinated by Prof Dr Benno, Prof M Ajmal Khan and Prof Bilquees Gul.

Dr Koyro elaborated on the various types of salt tolerant plants as well as their biochemical, anatomical and physiological sub-types and the remarkable ways through which these plants had evolved to deal with naturally harsh conditions such as high temperatures, light, salinity, drought and flooding.

There are lessons to be learnt from this biological diversity of form and function that can reshape our conventional crops and cropping systems to obtain high yields and economic benefits such as medicine, biofuel and food and fodder.   

Prof Dr Xiaojing Liu gave a lecture on ‘Growing Halophytes from Agronomic Purposes’.

He stressed the importance of appropriate agronomic practices that can ameliorate salt stress under saline, waterlogged soils to produce high value conventional crops such as corn, sorghum and cotton.

He presented detailed case study of Suaeda Salsa, an edible halophyte in China and showed experimental data from early germination stage to successful field trials under saline conditions.

During freezing conditions in winter, these soils are irrigated with sea water which when melted result in leaching of salts.

In addition, different fertilizer trials were carried out and irrigation practices like mulching with hay straw and synthetic plastic material to improve soil moisture and mineral content.

Eventually they succeeded in developing a cropping system using a local salt tolerant plant with high yield.

It was demonstrated that using appropriate agricultural practices coupled with modern research techniques for evaluating salt tolerant plants new crops can be developed for high yields. Similar experiments were also done using other crop plants where they were previously unable to carry out successful agriculture.