Nuclear Engineering Supports Middle Eastern Crop Production

Salinization increases the amount of salt in the soil contributing to land degradation, desertification and subsequent food insecurity. In the Middle East, the main obstacle to agricultural development slot365 deposit gopay in arid and semi-arid lands is the limited availability of water, making agricultural production difficult.

To address the dual challenges of soil salinity and water shortages, the IAEA, in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), has supported ten countries in the region facing severe salinization to improve soil, water and crop management practices. using nuclear and isotopic techniques. Five years later, farmers have succeeded in growing crops under saline conditions with significant yields. Guidelines are now available to help countries produce a variety of crops in different types of soil exposed to salt.

Through a program of technical cooperation, and in partnership with FAO, the IAEA trains and works with 60 scientists from Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen, who are now using nuclear and isotopic techniques to increase yields on salt-affected soils. These countries established the Cooperation Agreement for Arab Countries in Asia for Research, Development and Training related to Nuclear Science and Technology (ARASIA).

“Soil salinity is dynamic and spreads globally in more than 100 countries, and no continent is completely free from it,” said Mohammad Zaman, Soil Scientist and Plant Nutritionist in the FAO/IAEA Joint Nuclear Engineering Division in Food and Agriculture. “However, most Middle Eastern countries are facing severe salinization, and this is projected to increase due to climate change and its consequences: rising sea levels and rising air temperatures. The main challenge in these conditions is the availability of essential nutrients, especially nitrogen, as well as water for plants that are adversely affected by excessive salt in the soil.”

Irrigation with Salty Groundwater Let it Grow

Since the start of the project in 2014, 60 scientists have been trained in various nuclear and isotopic techniques, which play a key role in determining the amount of nitrogen and water required by plants. These include the use of a soil moisture neutron probe to monitor soil moisture levels, and a nitrogen-15 isotope technique that uses stable isotopes to help track how effectively plants respond to, and uptake, fertilizers (see Soil moisture neutron probe and nitrogen -15 isotope technique). The information generated from this technique allows farmers to know the right type and amount of fertilizer and water needed based on the nature of the soil and the type of crop.

With the application of the right type of irrigation water, the physical and chemical conditions of the soil can be improved over time, as the accumulated salts are washed away, allowing more plants to germinate and grow. As a result, farmers in the participating countries have succeeded in growing different crops slot depo gopay and achieving high production volumes. Examples include millet in Lebanon, barley and safflower in Jordan and quinoa in the United Arab Emirates.

Soil salinization in Iraq is mainly due to poor irrigation practices such as the use of salt water and soil compaction, leading to poor drainage. According to the FAO, it is estimated that Iraq loses about 25,000 hectares of agricultural land per year to salinity.

With support from the IAEA and FAO, the plant biomass generated from growing salt-resistant crops is used as animal feed. The amount of area planted has increased, as farmers reclaim the salty land  which they now have with techniques for farming. “Hundreds of farmers have now returned to their lands from north to south of Baghdad,” said Ibrahim Bakri Adbulrazzaq, former director general of the Ministry of Science and Technology’s Agricultural Research Directorate, who led the project in Iraq.

In Syria, scarcity of fresh water, deteriorating water quality and soil salinity are the main limiting factors for agricultural productivity and sustainability of natural resources. “The results generated through this project are invaluable,” said Mussadak Janat, researcher at the Syrian Atomic Energy Commission who is leading the project. “In three years, okra yields averaged over 13 tonnes per hectare, – comparable to what could be achieved in non-salt conditions. The yield of barley exceeds 5 tonnes per hectare and about 4.5 tonnes as dry biomass despite irrigation with saline groundwater, and millet yields over 3.5 tonnes of grain yield”.

Guidelines for producing crops in salt-affected soil

Based on the experience of experts in various countries, Guidelines for Salinity Assessment, Mitigation and Adaptation Using Nuclear and Related Techniques have been developed to disseminate knowledge about slot deposit gopay the sustainable use of salt and brackish water, and about salt tolerant trees and plants in arid soils.

“This guide can be used for all types of saline soils, helping farmers in different areas to increase their production,” says Zaman.

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