Brit Liggett

Persian Gulf Harnessing Microbes to Transform Desert into Farmland

by , 05/18/10
filed under: social design, Water Issues

persian gulf, farm, farmland, arid land, desert, irrigation, mycorrhiza, fungus, food scarcity, food security, united arab emirates, abu dhabi, dubai, kuwait, qatar

The United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait are in the midst of a massive project to re-landscape their deserts and transform them into fertile farmland, providing food security for their future. The countries are utilizing a mixture of microbes and soil — called mycorrhiza — that allows plants to absorb more nutrients than they can alone. By researching areas that have significant amounts of water and soil fertility and harnessing mycorrhiza they have already been able to convert 4,000 square meters of “hyper-saline waste-land” into a vegetable and grain producing farm.

persian gulf, farm, farmland, arid land, desert, irrigation, mycorrhiza, fungus, food scarcity, food security, united arab emirates, abu dhabi, dubai, kuwait, qatar

Abu Dhabi has just conducted a soil survey to locate the areas of their country where soil could sustain plant life. Given the correct treatment and financial investment they believe that they can find enough arable land to increase their domestic food production up to 70% higher than current levels — they’ve already found 200,000 hectares that could be used for agriculture. The Persian Gulf states won’t be able to find enough land to support 100% of their food needs but they believe it is a better choice than their current tactic of buying arable land in faraway places to produce food.

The studies conducted don’t seem to incorporate the environmental impact of farming in their desert ecosystems, nor do they mention much of where their water will come from. We’re guessing that providing irrigation to the UAE and surrounding nations could prove a difficult task. As we sometimes forget here in the US, a lot of our southwestern farmland is naturally desert and irrigation in that region is slowly draining the Colorado River. Though we love us some food security, we’re hoping the Gulf nations are doing the right surveys to account for water security as well.

Via Reuters

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8 Comments

  1. laseulchella January 15, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    Ancient farming methods keep humus within the soil, preventing erosion, holding water & providing nutrients – but intensive farming with “soil preparation” turns over the humus layer & the carbon evaporates, leaving the soil dead & our air dirty. Problem is, John Deere factories will have to be closed. All that farming equipment isn’t actually necessary & it’s destroying our soils. So, if you have any money in John Deere or other farm equipment companies (are there any others?), you’d better take your money OUT and put it into this new type of technology. Otherwise you’ll be behind the 8-ball.

  2. PeterAlbreble July 17, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    Then answer to \”where water comes\” is easy. From fosil water…look up what that is. Water trapped under earth from time when it rained …way back. Once this water gets drained, there is no more to go around. Btw. desert tribes depend on this water and this desert farming is draining it all.

  3. wesleybruce June 2, 2010 at 11:10 am

    If you have the skills to identify the soil organisms then you have the skills to do an environmental impact analysis. Given that there are already hunting reserves (owned populations of fauna can’t go extinct) protecting the larger game and smaller game tend to increase population on the edge of an irrigation project. Its good news.
    The water will be coming from new desalination technology being developed. Several technologies based on new membrane systems that have appeared this year. All reduce the energy cost or material cost of desalination. Forward osmosis, one way ion path solar osmosis and the green wall technology. This assumes their not growing Nupa a grain that can be irrigated with sea water. They probably are. Pumping water up hill from the sea is not a problem.

  4. mscir June 1, 2010 at 12:24 am

    @chad,

    Even if they are not as successful as they hope they will probably learn more so future efforts can be more productive. Also with any new technology you have to start somewhere.

  5. chad May 31, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    it is stupid in my opinion. just another last-gasp effort to sustain the unsustainable.

  6. orient_soul May 28, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    All the best to this project. And to the people behind it, brilliant! A big step to addressing the problem of hunger in some parts of the world….

  7. mscir May 23, 2010 at 9:25 am

    Very cool story, and good for them, they’re looking ahead. The US could learn a lot from their good example.

  8. Jim Dean May 23, 2010 at 8:11 am

    Dude that is major cool I loike it

    Lou
    http://www.complete-anonymity.at.tc

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