GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
Khalil Ur Rahman
Title of Paper:
Paper Proposal Text :


International Center for Biosaline Agriculture, P.O. Box 14660 Dubai
United Arab Emirates


The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is situated in the south-east of the Arabian Peninsula and adjacent to Arabian Gulf. The UAE is the federation of seven Emirates (Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm ul Quwain, Fujaira and Ras Al Khaima). UAE borders Oman and Saudi Arabia. Total area of UAE is about 82,880 km2, of which Abu Dhabi occupies 87% of the total land mass. The climate is arid with harsh and dry summers. When temperatures oftenly exceeds 45oC, and mild to warm winters with very little, sporadic rainfall.

Agriculture and forestry use two-thirds of UAE water resources that are not renewable. These two sub-sectors compete for the same groundwater resource. Neither uses the resource efficiently because of inducements offered by extensive support subsidies, including those supporting farm construction, land preparation and irrigation infrastructure. These subsidies contributed to the rapid development of irrigation that peaked in 2007. While the high level of subsidies have guaranteed farmers good incomes and supported rural settlements, they have rapidly increased the demand for energy and water. The Rhodes grass singly uses 60% of the agricultural water use and is responsible for much of the environmental damage and groundwater mining. Both Rhodes grass and associated livestock sector contributed 10% CO2 of the national total. The high rates of agriculture water use jeopardize UAE’s only strategic groundwater reserve. For example, at current rates of agricultural use all of Abu Dhabi’s fresh and moderately brackish water will be exhausted in 20-40 years.

ICBA at it’s headquarter is developing technologies in nutrient and water management in its domain (Biosaline agriculture) related to optimizing productivities under saline conditions through selection of salt tolerant genotypes and management options under field condition. This paper briefly summarizes the work done on 1) agro-forestry systems, 2) evaluation of local genotypes of forage species, and 3) new initiatives on optimizing agriculture in Abu Dhabi through water conservation strategies.

Acacia ampliceps, is one of the most successful tried plant species that fixes atmospheric nitrogen under different salinity levels (10-30 dS m-1), provides forage/fodder for animals, is also a source for bio-energy and provides a favorable environment to plants, thus supporting the nutrient. Research at ICBA over the last six years has demonstrated the compatibility between A. ampliceps to two salt-tolerant grasses, Sporobolus arabicus and Paspalum vaginatum, in response to different salinity treatments and fertilizers applications. Studies showed that Acacia ampliceps plants are able to fix nitrogen under different salinity levels (10-30 dS m-1), thus supporting the nutrient requirements for the two grasses studied, and optimizing yields of the grass.

Throughout the region and in the host country, ICBA is collaborating with partners to improve the livelihoods of rural communities in marginal lands through development of sustainable water, rangelands and livestock management. Forage grasses Lasirus scindicus and Cenchrus ciliaris, native to the Arabian Peninsula is being investigated for response to salinity at ICBA. With the increasing pressure on all types of water resources in the UAE, high water consuming plants for forage/fodder and other uses need to be replaced by water-efficient plants. Lasirus scindicus and Cenchrus ciliaris show better adaptability, growth and biomass under saline conditions than other introduced plant species.

In order to save precious water resources, the Abu Dhabi Government has placed complete ban on Rhodes grass and set the objective to save 40% water within five years. In this regards the Abu Dhabi Government through its official entity “Farmers Service Center” has signed an agreement with the Dubai based International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) to find alternate plant resources using less water than Rhodes grass. The ICBA and FSC have agreed to undertake “Potential co-operative projects for farming system, technology transfer and capacity building”. The overall goal of the project is to sustain farm-level productivity in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi by introducing improved farming management practices and developing capacity building for extension services and farmers.

ICBA jointly with FSC has now initiated activities on demonstration of salt tolerant forage system in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi. In future additional salt tolerant shrubs, trees and annual plants will be introduced. Some of these grasses have been proved to use less water (under experimental conditions), tolerate harsh climatic and highly saline conditions.

In this paper the ICBA experience in enhancing forage production through introducing alternate grasses and other plants and water saving efforts will be shared and discussed. Such a technology established at ICBA has great relevance to other countries in the Gulf States. By the replacement of alternate forage plants and improvement in water delivery and uses systems at the farm level hopefully will lead to achieve maximum water saving in coming times and will also provide alternate forage sources, and will save foreign exchange used to import huge quantities of grasses to feed the animals.

Keywords Abu Dhabi Emirate, FSC, ICBA, Rhodes grass, Western Region