Raising food and fodder crops in saline wastelands organically
Raising of food, fodder and perennial crops in non productive hyper-saline wastelands in desert areas through proper package of organic practices may sound too good to be true when there is a severe dearth of cultivable land. The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI)'s biotechnology based R&D on plant beneficial microbes called Mycorrhiza has developed an expertise in reclamation of environmentally vulnerable and uncultivable lands. The technology has been in implementation in various problematic soils for more than a decade and has developed an expertise on it.
The hyper-saline area of Dukhan' located in the western part of Qatar has extremely adverse land and water conditions making farming difficult. The soil salinity level is very high and accumulation of white salts (soluble chloride and sulfates of Ca, Mg, Na and K) on soil surface (white encrustation) is a common phenomena. Moreover, the country is experiencing severe water stress because of its depleting underground water resources. The country is dependent on import for meeting most of the food and fodder requirements. Also, the soil in the area largely composed of loose sand and gravel is highly vulnerable to wind erosion. A green cover developed on the surface with perennial trees would help keep the soil intact.
The realistic approach
In a country where there is a dearth of cultivable land, to attain self sufficiency some method need to be devised that facilitates cultivation in wastelands. TERI's researcher applied 100% ecofriendly organic farming practices for raising crops in these saline desert areas. The sustainable farming practices include need based application of organic manure. Much less was the quantity of treated sewage water used for irrigation in TERI's method.
Team TERI wants to use this technology to reclaim desert lands located in different parts of the globe to bring more area under the plough and raise various fodder/ food/vegetable crops to increase overall agricultural production and to develop a green cover to protect the vulnerable environment from degradation.
- 76% higher yield realized for Rhodes grass despite salinity 73 times higher than cultivable land
- Better quality organic food and fodder since it is free of pesticide residue
- More earnings from: Carbon trading, barren land made cultivable, more domestic production, reduced import bill
- Improved physical and biological properties of soil and permanent green cover over vulnerable land
- Cost effective organic cultivation technology as the production cost is 31% lesser than that of conventional method
- Quantity of water used is 25% lesser and accounts for high water use efficiency by almost doubling the green matter produced per unit intake of water
Crops successfully raised
- Perennial tree crops like Casuarina, Acacia (Zamar), Melia (Jan jalakht), Albizia, Parkinsonia etc.
- Food crops like wheat (Kumh), oats (Suphan), maize (Jarra)
- Fodder crops like alfalfa (Jeth), rhodes grass (Rodas)
- Vegetables like tomato (Thamatham), egg plant (Baajnazaan), okra (Baamiya), melons (Samaam), coriander (kajbara), onion (basal), cabbage (Malphooph), cauliflower (Jahraat), radish (Phajal), broccoli (Karanbeet) etc.
- Commercially important crops like sunflower (Davaar Asams), Vetiver, Salvadora (Mizwak), Jatropha (Dandebarri)