From drip irrigation to vertical gardens, Utah officials are learning how Israel is doing more with less water

Negev Desert, Israel • A group of Mormon Republican lawmakers from Utah enter a Jewish socialist kibbutz in the middle of the desert.

It is no joke.

A delegation of water officials, state legislators and other Utah political stakeholders ventured into the Negev to learn about farming in some of the harshest conditions on the planet. Members of the kibbutz welcomed them with open arms, invited them to lunch and showed them around their greenhouses.

“There is a term in Hebrew, ‘tikkun olam.’ That means preparing the world, making the world a better place,” Jared White, a member of the Ramat-Negev Regional Council, told the delegation. “It’s a core Jewish value.”

A kibbutz is a cooperative community where many things are shared. Some kibbutzim bear resemblance to the early Mormon concept of a “Unified Order,” where everything is lumped together and distributed according to “needs and desires.”

“So you have to put in everything you can and only take out what you need. There are about 270 kibbutz left in Israel,” White said. “And we’re one of the last kibbutz that’s still social in that sense, a socialist-style kibbutz where we never see my paycheck and I don’t own my house.”

White described it as a “beautiful life” for him and his family. Once people are included, you are essentially a “company shareholder”. They have diverse business interests, including agricultural research.

“We teach our farmers how to grow different crops for food security around the world. The knowledge is free for anyone who wants to come and learn and explore and see how they can do it,” White said. “We grow everything here from 75% of the cherry tomatoes we eat in Israel, 80% of the olives you eat, 25% of the milk you drink.”

dr Yuval Kaye, from the Ramat-Negev Research and Development Center, walked the Utah delegation through some of the greenhouses, where tomatoes and eggplants were grown in vertical gardens that used less water than traditional farms, although it did involve a little more energy and forerun Costs.

“We are trying to help our farmers be more profitable in an applied science. This is a link between the R&D station, farmers and even science and industry,” he said.

The delegation entered a greenhouse where plump, ripe strawberries were growing in the middle of the Negev desert. They were suspended from the ceiling and fed by drip irrigation systems. The experiment tested different plant varieties, fertilization and water use.

“It’s one of many experiments we’re doing to find solutions to use the water more than once,” Kaye told them.

Teresa Wilhelmsen, Utah State Engineer and Director of the Department of Water Rights, was impressed.

“In the Negev, I think they get about an inch of water a year or so. It’s pretty minimal,” she said. “And they had this huge strawberry farm, they were super delicious, the strawberries. But they have really worked on how to maximize their water supply.”

Craig Buttars, commissioner of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, said he’s heard about Israel’s innovations in crop production.

“They are advanced in some aspects of agriculture, more advanced than we are here,” he said of Utah.

Asked about the work, Kaye acknowledged that it was one of Israel’s biggest problems for agriculture.

“So we develop robotics first,” he replied.

Across Israel, academic and research institutions are experimenting with crops that use less water and still provide good harvests for people. At the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the delegation studied experiments on growing grapes in the desert. They began bottling the wine for sale.

The delegation toured an experimental farm operated by the Volcani Center, which is researching new types of wheat varieties that have a shorter growing season and save water. They also looked at an experiment to collect rainwater from roofs. Outside Lake Kinneret (also known as the Sea of ​​Galilee), members of the delegation ventured through banana groves, mango trees and blueberry bushes under net houses that help with pests and temperature control.

“It seems like very interesting avenues, new avenues or different avenues than what we traditionally grow where we are,” said Rep. Casey Snider, R-Paradise, co-chair of the Utah State Legislature’s Great Salt Lake Caucus and farmer himself.

But one thing that was conspicuously lacking in Israel was sprinkler systems for irrigating crops. As in Utah, Israel’s largest water user is agriculture (but agriculture uses only 56% of water in Israel, compared to 70% in Utah). In addition to using wastewater for cultivation, Israel also relies heavily on drip irrigation. There are still some crops that are irrigated with sprinklers, but drip irrigation is used in everything from flower beds to agricultural crops.

Alfalfa, a crop much maligned in Utah for its high water use, is also grown in Israel. But it’s irrigated with drip irrigation, resulting in dramatic water savings—up to 50% less water compared to flood irrigation and pivot sprinkler systems.

In comparison, farmers in Utah who grow alfalfa largely use flood irrigation and pivot sprinkler systems.

“They actually plant alfalfa using an underground drip irrigation system,” Buttars said. “All of the irrigation water that goes onto your alfalfa is below the surface. So there is none [evapotranspiration] In general, and also all the nutrients they need to feed the plants are provided via the drip system.” Evapotranspiration is one way of understanding the water loss from plants and the soil.

The Utah delegation visited Netafim, a world-renowned drip irrigation company (also originally founded by Israeli kibbutzim in the 1960s), which has a significant market share for such products and generates revenues in excess of US$1 billion. Netafim representatives showed them various drip systems that help grow crops with less water.

“Drip is the technology that can make the difference in farming,” said Abed Marsarwa, vice president of products at Netafim.

The overwhelming presence of drip irrigation systems did not go unnoticed by Snider.

“There is not an inch of Israel’s land that is not irrigated by drops. Most farms in this country are drip irrigated. Flood irrigation doesn’t exist at all and sprinkler irrigation is slowly being phased out,” he said.

Snider said it’s something Utah should really consider.

“If I look at the water in our state,” he said, “how we’re using the water in our state, if I can’t bring anything else home, this technology is something that I think we need to do more in our state.” have to integrate. ”

This article is published by the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, a solutions journalism initiative that brings together news, education and media organizations to educate people about the plight of the Great Salt Lake — and what can be done to help make a difference before it’s too late. Read all of our stories below

Justin Scaccy

InternetCloning is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button