Historical evidence shows that silk was discovered in China from where the industry spread to other parts the world. Silk has played an important role in the economic life of man ever since its discovery more than 4000 years ago. Even today despite the introduction of artificial fibers, natural silk continues to reign supreme as the “Queen of Textile”. Sericulture was introduced in Taxila locality of Punjab immediately after independence in 1947 through Kashmir which is known to be the gateway of sericulture. Subsequently, it was introduced in and around irrigated Forest Plantation where mulberry (toot) was available in abundance to provide foliage (leaves) to silkworms for feeding. Since then it made a slow but steady progress in Punjab. Sericulture is, even now, one of the major cottage industries in the rural areas of the province. The activity is mainly concentrated around irrigated forest plantations of Changa Manga, Daphar, Chichawatni, Kamalia, Khanewal, Baghat, Kundian and Jauharabad. Besides, it is scattered on small scale in various other parts of the province viz Head Marala, Kot Naina, Sargodha, Faisalabad, Soon skesar valley Mian Channu and Multan etc.
Sericulture was inherited as a wing to Directorate of Industry West Pakistan at the time of establishment of Pakistan in 1947. It was transferred from WPID to West Pakistan Small Industry Corporation in 1961. In 1962 West Pakistan Small Industry Corporation became a Division of West Pakistan Industrial Corporation and, therefore, Sericulture Organization became a part of WPIDC. In October 1965 WPSIC was separated from WPIDC and was made an independent organization again. Sericulture Organization went with it. Sericulture Organization was transferred from West Pakistan Small Industry Corporation to Agriculture Department on 29.08.1966 with assets and liabilities. It enjoyed the status of attached department till 1975, however, later on it was given under the control of the Forest Department and attached with Conservator of Forests, Development & Working plan Circle, Lahore. Its control was transferred to the Director, Punjab Forest Research Institute, Faisalabad on 30.11.1999 but after a period of less than 5 month it was attached with the Conservator of Forests, Extension Circle, Lahore on 24.04.2000. However, it was returned to the Director, Punjab Forest Research Institute, Faisalabad on 01.07.2001. Attached with Tourism Department on 21.04.2004. Re-attachment with Forest Department on 26.10.2004. Dissected into 2 parts in 2006, Deputy Director Sericulture attached with the Conservator of Forests, Extension Circle, Lahore on 24.11.2006, whereas the Senior Research Officer Sericulture remained attached with the Director PFRI, Faisalabad. Re-attachment of Deputy Director Sericulture with the Director PFRI, Faisalabad was made on 06.05.2020.
“Natural silk” a dry salivary secretion, consists of two proteins, the inner core of fibroin and outer cover of gum is sericin. It is produced when a full grown silkworm larva spins its cocoon during pre-pupation. It is known as the “Golden Fiber” of the “Golden Queen” of textile and admired all over the world for its sleek and lust. Its products are wonderfully light and soft but strong and smooth and universally accepted by the world top fashion designers for its elegance, colours, dyeing affinity, thermo tolerance and water absorbance.
In addition to making clothes and garments which are harmonious to human skin and comfortable to wear, it is being utilized in making fishing lines, tyre lining, parachute, elastic webs, electrical instruments, certain medicines, in surgery and also for making artificial blood vessels etc. Its pupae are utilized in making soaps and for extraction of oils having vitamins E & K. The excrements of this insect are utilized in making fish, poultry and live stock feed.
The raising and rearing of silkworms for production of silk is called as Sericulture. It involves the incubation of the tiny eggs of the silk moth (Bombyx mori) until they hatch and become worms (larvae of silk moth). After hatching the worms are placed under a layer of gauze on which is spread a layer of finely chopped mulberry leaves. For four weeks the worms (caterpillars) eat almost continuously except the periods of moultings (ecdysis). There are four moultings in the life cycle of silkworm during which the larvae become inactive, raise their heads and stop eating. At the end of this period they are ready to spin their cocoons and dry branches of trees or shrubs are placed in their rearing houses. The larvae climb these branches and spin their cocoons around them in one continuous thread taking about 4-5 days for the process.
The cocoons are first heated in boiling water (50°C– 80°C) to dissolve the gummy substance that holds the cocoon filament in place. After this heating, the filaments from 4 – 8 cocoons are joined and twisted and are then combined with a number of similarly twisted filaments to make a thread that is wound on a reel on the Reeling Machine. When each cocoon is unwounded it is replaced with another one. The resulting thread called raw silk consists usually of 48 individual fibers. The thread is continuous and unlike the thread spun from other natural fibers such as cotton and wool is made up of extremely long fibers. A single cocoon can give 800m to 1200m long filament.
Extension and Educational Services
The propagation and regeneration of mulberry plantation is carried out through raising of mulberry nurseries which are presently raised is two ways.
Raising of Potted Nursery
Shoots/branch cuttings or seeds are sown (In case of indigenous variety) directly in polythene tubes generally 18 - 23 cm long with 5 - 10 cm diameter when filled with soil mixture. Black polythene 0.002 gauge is recommended for this purpose. The tube before filling is punched to make some holes for aeriation.
Raising of Bed Nursery
The hybrid mulberry nursery is raised through vegetative propagation in which branch/shoot cuts of standard size (23cm or 9 inch) are used. In order to raise one acre mulberry bed nursery 40,000 branch cuttings are planted in an acre (0.40 hectare) after completion of earth work at spacing of 1' x 1'. The practice of raising of mulberry nursery is usually done in spring season of every year. The crop of mulberry nursery is harvested during the next spring season after a period of almost one year. The Sericulture Wing has been raising mulberry nurseries with fast growing Japanese hybrid varieties at various sericulture centres of Punjab for production of planting stock for raising of mulberry plantations on farmlands. The saplings are usually available to farmers during the spring season @ Rs.1 per sapling (stump).
Raising of Mulberry Plantation
Mulberry stumps of standard size of 23cm (9 inch) long obtained from bed mulberry nurseries are used for raising of mulberry plantation. For raising of one acre compact mulberry plantation in plain areas 2800 mulberry stumps are planted at spacing of 3' x 5'. The raising of mulberry plantation through mulberry stumps is termed as vegetative propagation and it is done more effectively in hybrid mulberry varieties. Mulberry plantations have been raised on state lands for supply of foliage to landless farmers for silkworm rearing. The mulberry leaf permits are issued @ Rs.150/- to landless farmers who desire to harvest mulberry leaves from state plantations. Only one person is allowed to harvest leaves on each permit during the rearing season.
The technique of linear mulberry plantation is usually practiced in agro-forestry on private lands. In this technique mulberry plants are linearly raised through vegetative propagation along khals, watts and paths etc. on the agriculture land with plant to plant distance of about 5 feet. After completion of silkworm rearing process the mulberry plants are pollarded off (cut) at standard height of 1½ feet and twigs are sold to Basket makers which is another source of income to the farmers A farmers can earn Rs.5000 to Rs.10000 through selling of standing twigs of 500 plants. The pollarding is carried out every year after the end of rearing season or during the autumn season. The mulberry plants can be raised linearly along the watts, khals and paths etc. without making shade on agriculture crops. However, mulberry plants can also be raised in compact shapes alongwith other agriculture crops at spacing of 10' x 6' or 10' x 10' feet as per requirement of the farmers. In this technique regular pollarding operation is carried out to avoid the shades of plants on agriculture crops.
Training of farmers
There are eight sericulture demonstration and training centers at Faislabad, Sara-e-Alamgir, Sargodha, Head Marala, Chichawatni, Mian channu, Mitha Tiwana and Bahawalpur etc. where, rural folk is offered training every year to adopt sericulture cottage industry as a source of their part time income. In addition to farmers, classes of students of educational institutions (schools, colleges and universities) often visit the Sericulture Demonstration and Training Centers for the purpose of education and training. The short duration of life cycle of silkworm and its meta-morphological changes and bio-synthesis of silk are major areas of interest for science students. On account of its short life span, the silkworm is commonly used as transgenic organism by researchers in Bio-technological sciences. The education and training is imparted preferably in silkworm rearing, disinfection of rearing sheds and mulberry cultivation techniques. In order to transfer the skill, the demonstrations of basket making techniques are also carried out before the unskilled rural folk. The people going abroad for employment especially in Sericulturally advanced countries can avail of the opportunity of training in different aspects of sericulture as an additional skill for employment in silk industry abroad.
The Sericulture Demonstration and training Farms are sites of public gathering and learning and they also play their role to create awareness among rural community about government campaigns. Pamphlets, Brochures and guidelines for taking pre-cautionary measures are also distributed among public for education and awareness.
Commercial Silkworm Rearing
Commercial silkworm rearing is practiced at farmer level during the spring season. Silk seed packets (12 to 14 grams) produced by sericulture Research Wing at PFRI Faisalabad are distributed through the field staff of Sericulture Extension Wing at nominal rates (Rs.300 to Rs.350) for commercial silkworm rearing. About 2000 to 3000 families are connected directly or indirectly with the business of sericulture in the rural areas of the province. The silkworm rearing is carried out among the rural silk farming community in spring (Jan. to April) and pre autumn (Sept. to Oct.). The whole process of silk production is completed within 30 to 35 days. A family consisting of 2 to 3 members having a common sized rural based house consisting of 2 to 3 common rooms or huts can rear 2 to 3 packets on average and earn Rs.50,000/- to 75,000/- on average within a period of one month. It is interesting to know that men and women of all ages can take part in silkworm rearing activity in addition to their normal business.
Harvesting and Marketing of Raw Silk
It is not difficult to sell silk cocoon, usually silk reelers and silk contractors frequently visit families’ houses to purchase silk cocoon. Moreover, sericulture research wing also purchases good quality silk cocoon from families at competitive rates. The families, however, also bring their silk cocoon in silk markets such as Changa Manga and Chichawatni etc. The field staff of sericulture assists the families for selling of silk cocoon on competitive rates. Some of the expert families have arrangements for harvesting of silk thread at their houses which is directly sold to textile units at high prices (8000 to 12000 per Kg).
Basket Making and Twigs Products
The fleshy twigs are used to make various types of baskets, canopies, hats are very commonly used in vegetable, fruit markets, cold stores, fruit and vegetable farms, in construction works, for loading & unloading, carriage of material etc. whereas canopies are erected in parks, gardens and house lawns for shadow and aesthetic purpose in rural and urban areas. The business of basket making is concentrated around irrigated plantation in such as Changa Manga, Faisalabad, Nankana, Sorgodha, Sialkot, Chichawatni, Khanewal and Multan etc.
Fodder for Livestock
Highly proteineous, nutritive and lush green mulberry leaves have great potential of forage for livestock as they are highly palatable to milch animals. After silkworm rearing mulberry foliage can be available to milch animals as forage through careful browsing and lopping of plants.
Mulberry fruit has medicinal value and local pharmaceuticals prepare medicinal products from the fruit of mulberry such as “Sharbat-e-Toot Siah” which is very effective to cure cough and digestive ailments. Shahtoot locally termed as jaleba toot is grafted from hybrid mulberry roots which is available in the markets during spring season. The grafted shahtoot plants are available at Sericulture Centre Sargodha, Faisalabad, Changa Manga, Chichawatni, Lahore and Pirowal. Honey harvested from hives of mulberry plantations is comparatively liked by the honey users. Friendly insects like honey bees can be seen frequently in mulberry plantations during the spring season seem to collect pollens and nectar from the mulberry flowers/fruit.
Biological weed control
The mulberry trees are shade tolerant and its under storey cultivation make a uniform thick canopy over the soil cover which is very useful to control almost all types of weeds especially Kana, Dib and mesquette etc. abundantly grow in agricultural and forest lands competing and suppressing the newly raised forests crops.
Timber for sports industry
The indigenous mulberry trees have great timber value for sports industry of the country. Wood of toot and willow is used for making cricket bats, wickets, hockey’s, rackets and many other sports articles etc. The wood of desi toot is commonly used for making households, fire for stove burning in rural areas of the province.
In order to cover the premises of Dairy Farms, Livestock Farms, Farm Houses, Field Offices, Gardens, Parks and House lawns, vegetable and fruit Farms etc. fencing with mulberry plants is made through vegetative propagation. Mulberry stumps are planted linearly in rows at spacing 1' to 2' (plant to plant distance) during the spring season. After one year plant grow upto 5 to 6 feet on average. In order to give them the shape of fence, rows of plants are laterally and vertically cut at the height of 4' or 5'. The regular latero-vertical cutting of rows will give a thick fence after the period of 1 to 2 years. After every cutting mulberry plants increased their branches and leaves. 40 to 50 branches has been counted from an average shrub like mature plant.
Recreation and Hunting
Mulberry fruit with pleasant smell and sweet taste is a gift of spring season. The families of rural areas residing around the mulberry plantations frequently visit the mulberry plantations to eat and enjoy the fruit of mulberry trees. Mulberry fruit is also a source of attraction for local migratory and seasonal birds during the spring season. The Siberian winter visitors and local birds often come in mulberry plantations to eat mulberry fruit. They stay in these plantations during winter & spring, the people interested in hunting can enjoy hunting during the spring season in their mulberry plantations.
Following are the contact numbers of Deputy Director Sericultire and Senior Research Officer respectively
+92 42 37721702, 37728043