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Ben Gurion University of the Negev – The Bergman Institute for Applied Sciences

Innovative Cash crop Halophytes for Future Halophyte Growers in Ramat Negev
שדה מחקר מופ רמת הנגב. הנחית פרויקט ד"ר משה שגיא

Background:

The freshwater resources in Israel became critically limited. It is time to apply sustainable biological production systems which can tolerate higher water salinity. Ramat Negev  has saline water resources with electroconductivity of 4 to 7 dS/m from which water of 4 to 5 dS/m is used by the farmers. The State of Israel is financing a project of desalination in Ramat Negev. The desalination facility is to start operating during 2003 and to produce annually 3,000,000 m3 of freshwater and 300,000 m3 of brine with sea level salinity. The amount of brine is expected to increase with the addition of desalination facilities in the area. For the time being, the brine, which has no value for conventional agriculture, is planned to be stored in the area in an evaporation reservoir. In addition to the efforts to have an economic use for the brine, the necessity for its removal still exists, and it is a very expensive procedure. It is proposed to develop a new agro-technology using high saline and brine to irrigate salinity tolerant introduced plants (halophytes) as cashcrops. The project is based on halophytes that are presently used, all over the world, along seashores and inland salt flats in a very extensive manner. None of these species is presently considered to be a major cashcrop. This, however, will be the future for many halophytes which can be grown with seawater irrigation on presently unproductive land.  Mangroves can be planted in the desert with saline irrigation and create new productive biotopes for seafood production combined with vegetable and fodder as cashcrops. To achieve that goal  appropriate production systems will be developed. It is intended to grow the crops on the deep dune sand in the area, to allow the irrigation water to drain down rapidly to prevent soil salinization. 

Objectives

The main  objective is to develop a new agriculture based on halophyte plants as cashcrops, using very high saline water while preventing the high cost of the brine removal from desalination facilities in Ramat Negev. An agricultural production system is proposed, based on different types of halophytes plants, irrigated with high saline water, as follows:

  • Halophytes for food such as Aster tripolim, Tripolium vulgare, Avicennia marina, etc.  used as vegetables and other food cashcrops.

  • Various types of Halophytes for fodder.

  • Fast growing Halophytes for landscaping that can cover barren soil in a short time
     

  • Ornamental Halophytes.

At the end of the triennial applied research project a new branch of cashcrop halophytes will be developed, in order to extend the economic potential of the Ramat Negev growers.

Contact:
Dr. Moshe Sagi

064-235743