HORTIDAILY: Growers in Abu Dhabi want to produce more with less use of water and pesticides

Country: United Arab Emirates
HORTIDAILY: Growers in Abu Dhabi want to produce more with less use of water and pesticides
22 February 2024


The Greenhouse Horticulture and Flower Bulbs Business Unit of Wageningen University & Research embarked on a demonstration project in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, aimed at promoting sustainable agricultural practices. The project, initiated several years ago, seeks to reduce water and pesticide usage among growers while maintaining optimal production levels. Following the success of this project, the government of Abu Dhabi, one of the Arab Emirates, has enlisted WUR to replicate similar efforts in their region.

In Abu Dhabi, agricultural production occurs in three main regions: near Abu Dhabi city (humid and warm), near Al Ain city, and in the southern arid and warm areas. Simple greenhouses are utilized for growing various crops such as cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplants, and even figs, while open fields are utilized for the cultivation of zucchinis, corn, and animal feed. Additionally, many farms in Abu Dhabi also rear livestock like cows and chickens alongside their crop production activities.

The greenhouses in Abu Dhabi typically consist of plastic tunnels, which can become quite warm, particularly during the summer months. However, through the implementation of evaporative cooling techniques, crops can still be grown effectively. Research conducted by WUR has identified simple adjustments that can significantly reduce water usage for cooling purposes. These adjustments are being applied to several commercial companies to showcase their effectiveness in practice. Furthermore, soil sensors are being installed at various farms to monitor soil moisture levels, aiding growers in optimizing their watering practices with the assistance of a mobile app.

WUR is also assisting growers in Abu Dhabi in adopting biological control methods, such as the use of natural predators, to manage insect populations. Many farms in the region currently rely heavily on pesticides due to high insect pressure. Additionally, growers are being trained in disease and pest scouting techniques through information meetings held at demonstration farms.

The project in Abu Dhabi commenced in 2023 and is scheduled to last four years, with funding provided by the government of Abu Dhabi. Through these collaborative efforts, WUR aims to facilitate a transition towards more sustainable and efficient agricultural practices in the region, ultimately benefiting both growers and the environment.

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