The International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) in Egypt has started investigating whether water that was previously used for the production of tilapia fish can be enhanced with nutrients and re-used in the irrigation of saline-tolerant crops like sugar beet and barley.
In a statement, ICARDA said the Egyptian project is one of many under its Water and Livelihoods Initiative (WLI), which seeks to help rural communities in North Africa and the Middle East improve irrigation efficiency, raise water productivity and reap “more crop-per-drop” of water.
“In the development and evaluation of the use of brackish groundwater in integrated aqua-agriculture systems, the performance of saline-tolerant crops such as sugar beet and barley are being tested in brackish water that is re-used for irrigation, after previously being utilised in the production of tilapia fish,” ICARDA said.
Among several key challenges, Egyptian agriculture faces chronic water scarcity, land degradation, and water quality deterioration. Further, livestock herds tend to be in poor condition due to a shortage of efficient veterinary services and the high cost of feed. The challenges are expected to be further worsened by the effects of climate change.
INCREASED WATER USAGE
ICARDA said the adoption of supplemental irrigation systems has increased water use efficiency by 45% in Tunisia. The organisation has also studied the use of regulated deficit irrigation systems to promote efficient water use among citrus growers in the northern part of Tunisia.
Supplemental irrigation entails the addition of small amounts of water to crops when rains fail to provide sufficient moisture for normal plant growth. The innovation is aimed at ensuring crops in water stressed environments receive their minimal water requirements during critical growth stages.
The organisation is also experimenting with the use of drip and sub-surface irrigation, which are seen as sustainable and water-efficient systems that allow water to drip slowly and straight to the roots of crops.