International Symposium on
Drylands Ecology and Human Security

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Using Protected Agriculture
for Improved Water and Nutrient Use Efficiency in the Dry Areas

Ahmed T. Moustafa

Regional Coordinator, Arabian Peninsula Regional Program (APRP)
International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA)


The massive increasing of the world population and their needs for clean water and healthy food during last decades put a tremendous pressure on limited natural resources especially in the dry areas.
Protected agriculture (PA), the production of crops under protective housing (plastic houses or greenhouses), represents an intensive and dynamic form of crop production in which both the environment and timing of production can be controlled and yields can be substantially improved. Protected agriculture, with its associated production systems, can significantly reduce the amount of water and chemicals used in producing high value fresh produce compared with open field production, and can significantly increase production of high value crops.
Studies showed that the productivity of 1 m3 of water for producing Tomato can be increased more than 15 times in PA comparing to the open field. Use of  improved irrigation systems such drip irrigation not only increases the water use efficiency in PA but also provides opportunity to use soluble fertilizer with irrigation water (fertigation). Precise application of nutrients is possible using drip irrigation. Fertilizer costs and nitrate losses can be reduced. Nutrient applications can be better timed to meet plants' needs and ultimately reduce the negative effect of applying agro-chemicals to minimum.
Protected Agriculture is one of the good answers to the present and future needs of more crops per drop especially in the dry areas.