International Symposium on
Drylands Ecology and Human Security

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Marble Farming: A Unique Application in Water Conservation for Horticulture and Urban Plantations in the Tropical Deserts

Salahuddin Qureshi

Department of Geography, Aligarh Muslim University, India


It seems that all the strategies of sustainable development in the desert ecosystems hinge upon an efficient water management. Water in the desert is scarce not only in terms of its quantum but also in terms of the atmospheric demand. Under conditions of acute scarcity and great uncertainties, water conservation measures are of central significance for rehabilitation of human activities. A combination of suitable technologies such as drip irrigation coupled with a unique practice of Marble Farming has resulted into additional conservation of soil moisture in the avenue plantations. The author makes a tentative attempt to introduce a self-conceived and effective technique of Marble farming for the amelioration of desert environment. Though it is still in the stage of infancy, it has harnessed appreciable results in the conservation and enhancement of water use efficiency. With the technique the soil-water-plant exchange relations have seen a new horizon in the scarcity stricken lands. With the new technique applied in the Urban Green Belts, one can envisage that a 25 per cent improvement in water use efficiency could save up to 100 days of watering in a year. As water is a major constraint in the Arid zone, the additional water conserved through this technique could further be utilized in expanding the operational area of combating the desertification. The proposal technique consists of laying down a layer of white marble pebbles along the tree beds. Using the white marble as a mulch, its basic purpose is to induce reflection of solar radiation and to facilitate reduction in the thermal conductivity in the root zone. It will help curtail capillary rise of soil moisture and evaporation losses. The angular white marble chips varying in size from 12mm to 17mm have a unique property of warming slowly and cooling off quickly. The technique is more than a mere mulch. Seemingly cumbersome, the technique might fetch long-term dividends to the edaphic environment in the desert. Although, marble farming technique does not appear to be economically viable to sedentary agriculture, it would be substantially conductive to market gardening, horticulture, urban green belts and roadside plantations. Potential evapotranspiration, Water need, Water balance and Crop coefficient indices have been measured to ascertain the feasibility of marble farming.