A new partnership between leading entities aims to improve sustainable agriculture in the UAE by conducting comprehensive vegetable seed trials, capacity building programs for farmers and addressing the challenges of climate change.
Bayer, a global leader in life sciences, has partnered with leading agricultural technology company Silal, part of Abu Dhabi-based ADQ, to strengthen the agricultural landscape in the country.
The collaboration will jointly test more than 30 varieties of vegetable seeds, including tomato, cucumber and melon, to determine their performance in harsh desert conditions.
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“The naturally harsh climate conditions in the Middle East make the UAE the perfect platform to assess crop performance and help dictate agricultural practices in countries facing the brunt of climate change,” said Hugo Hagen, senior representative of Bayer Middle East, Khaleej Times.
He noted that the survival and resilience of the seeds will be seriously tested in the brutal desert conditions.
“These trials will investigate how these varieties perform in challenging agricultural conditions in the desert, evaluating increased crop resistance, quality and shelf life characteristics. These trials will be carried out in open-field, medium-tech greenhouses,” said Hagen, head of Bayer Middle East’s national pharmaceuticals division.
Taking into account the top five traits per crop, the score will determine which traits performed best in arid conditions. Some of these traits include yield, fruit size, resistance to viruses, diseases (blossom end rot) and pests (such as mites and flies), stress tolerance (climate or salt), early maturity, and flavor/sugar content. .
The data from these trials has a dual purpose: not only does it benefit agricultural practices in the UAE, but this information will inform agricultural processes around the world, including countries facing the challenges of climate change.
“Data from these trials are crucial to combating the challenges of climate change, including rising temperatures in combination with elevated levels of humidity, also known as wet bulb temperatures,” Hagen stressed.
Innovative solutions, advanced technologies
Hagen noted that desert conditions pose a considerable challenge to agriculture, but one that can be countered by developing innovative solutions and deploying advanced technologies to reclaim agricultural land.
“In arid desert conditions, the focus is on employing specific techniques to grow enough food on less land. For example, implementation of no-till farming, crop protection and breeding technology are imperative to facilitate better soil management.”
Hagen said the technology can be critical in harsh desert conditions, ensuring precise application of seeds and irrigation to conserve resources.
“Advances in crop science are a true blessing for agricultural lands in desert areas; For example, we are using cover crops; Select crops planted out of season in fields maximize the amount of carbon remaining in the soil, potentially reducing the need for fertilizer. As part of the Bayer Carbon Program, we are reducing tillage, thereby decreasing soil disturbance and improving the soil’s natural capacity to store carbon, nutrients and water to improve crop yields.”
Hagen noted that precipitation alerts, real-time field health data using drones and satellites and other tools are essential to boost agricultural rotation in desert conditions.
“We are very proud of our R&D team’s successful attempt to grow tomato varieties that require less water; is a notable example of how our innovation can help farmers adapt to a changing climate. Through sustainable intensification we can help farmers produce more food on the same amount of land, with less impact on the environment. “As we continue this mission, we are simultaneously providing farmers with the tools they need to meet the many challenges posed by growing crops in arid conditions.”
Support and train farmers
Hagen said agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions and making it part of the solution is crucial in the battle against climate change.
“Recognising the vital role of agriculture in mitigating climate change and improving resilience, we are collaborating with our Silal partners to enhance the capabilities of local agronomists. We are achieving this by leveraging Bayer’s BayG.AP capacity building program, a service program that helps farmers around the world train in good agricultural practices, become verified and connected to the food value chain locally and globally. ”.
Hagen said it will be a gradual approach to systematically reach and train UAE farmers.
“First it is essential to equip local agricultural engineers with the right set of knowledge and training tools. In the first step, agronomists and agricultural managers will be trained in a train-the-trainer approach. In the second phase, these trainers will expand capacity building efforts to potentially reach over 300 farmers in the UAE, who are part of the Silal network. The program covers modules on essential topics such as integrated pest management, safe use, phytosanitary products, application technology and irrigation.”
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