Raising Plants in the Desert

Tomato Plants in the Negev

It may be winter here and across most of the US, but I think back to the terrible drought that Texas and other parts of the Southwest had this past summer and the potential for water problems in these areas and the West in the future.

I recently read an interesting article about new desert technology that is coming out of Israel.  There at the Center for Experiments in Desert Farming “researchers joined with scientists from the Ben-Gurion University, the Vulkani Institute, and the Hebrew University to figure out how to grow tomatoes using brackish water. At the experimental station, organic tomato plants are all irrigated with salt water mixed with floodwater and recycled waste water. Using sophisticated technology, researchers carefully monitor the plants to determine the correct percentage of salt needed for each species to thrive. ” Israel produces “15,000 tons of ‘Desert Sweet’ tomatoes in 250 acres of hothouses in the desert, ranging from organic tomatoes to especially small strains of cherry tomatoes that are sold at a high price to restaurants and hotels throughout the world.”

“In addition to preserving precious freshwater in this thirsty desert region, growing tomatoes with brackish water has a pleasant, if unintended, side effect: as a reaction to the pressure that the salt exerts on its cells, the tomato plants produce more sugar, making their flesh even sweeter than those grown in central and northern Israel.”

At the Yair Agricultural Research Station in Israel’s desert they are using what they call “popcorn” soil which is ” actually a stone that gets heated to 5,000 degrees, causing it to pop and act like a sponge. When wet, it can irrigate the plant continuously and is therefore much more efficient than sand.” In Israel’s desert, “an area with an average rainfall of only 20 millimeters a year, farmers manage to raise 60%” of Israel’s produce for export.”

I think it is important to learn from other country’s successes in agriculture so that we can improve our growing methods. If readers read about new agricultural improvements coming out of other countries, please let the readers of TheGardenLady blog know about them, too. We learn by sharing ideas.

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