Climate smart saline farming and water management
with natural capital accounting in Jordan

Location:

Jordan

Partners:

The Salt Doctors, IV-Water (lead), FarmTree services, Delphy, Nectaerra,

Generous Minds, National Agricultural Research Center (NARC, Jordan),

Ministry of Agriculture (Jordan)

Duration:

2020-2021

Project description:

There is a great need in Jordan for knowledge and know-how about smart water and land use under saline conditions.

The use of non-conventional water sources, including the use of saline water, is government policy at present and NARC is already researching these possibilities. Prior to the start of this project, the need for “saline knowledge and know-how” was expressed by NARC during a trade mission of the Netherlands to Jordan.

The project (concerning the role of The Salt Doctors) aimed at validating the crop performance under saline conditions, as well as the exploration for establishing a commercial center for excellence, expertise and exchange in Jordan. For this, an (online) salinity assessment was performed and field trails took place at two research stations of NARC, validating the performance of several carrot and beetroot varieties, as well as a trail with the halophyte Salicornia, under different seeding densities and fertilizer treatments.

Highlights:

  • The Jordan Valley produces around 60% of Jordan’s agricultural produce

  • Salinity affects up to 60% of the soils in the Jordan Valley, with soil salinity level ranges from 2 up to >30 dS/m

  • Salinity levels of the major water basin are low (1.0-1.6 dS/m)

  • Total water use exceeds the sustainable use by around 50% (625 million m3 used vs 419 Mm3 “safe yield”, based on 2015)

  • Non-utilized water sources are moderate to high in salinity (8-25 dS/m)

  • Brackish water is distributed all over the country and is estimated at hunderds of millions of m3 of potential yield per year

  • The use of brackish water for agricultural use has the potential to greatly reduce the pressure on freshwater use

  • The depth of the water table can be shallow in the Jordan Valley (0-2m), but in the majority of the country the depth is >30 meters

  • Irrigation with brackish water requires good irrigation management to ensure leaching and drainage. Possibly, with a shallow water table, no additional drainage facilities are needed (leaching directly to ground water) 

  • Soil texture in the Jordan Valley appears to range from clay to sandy clay to loam. Possibly, the use of brackish water for irrigation is limited to loam soils.

  • Trails are needed to determine the possibilities of using saline water for sustainable irrigation and which crops, cultivation strategies and technologies are needed under the local conditions in Jordan

 

For the crops, cultivation guidelines were composed and shared with NARC. As said, the crop trials took place at two different research stations of NARC. Before the trials started, the available data on the quality of the irrigation water (7 samples) and the soil (46 samples) was analyzed.  The average soil salinity was 12.3 dS/m and 25.5 dS/m (ECe) for the two stations, so soil salinity levels were very high to extremely high. At the extreme high salinity levels, crop performance was poor, but both carrot and beetroot did provide viable yields at the high salinity level and the overall quality was considered to be better than the varieties that are used at present day. As a next step, the crop performance should be validated at farm level as well as the economic aspects and the ecological sustainability of using saline resources on the mid- and long-term.

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Results:

Opportunities for crop cultivation under saline conditions in Jordan 

As part of the activity to determine the economic viability of crop cultivation under saline conditions in Jordan it is important to determine the scale of salinization (both soil and water resources) and the necessity to utilize these resources. For this, a first desk study has been performed in order to determine the level and extent of salinization, the potential of crop cultivation under saline conditions (based on soil type, irrigation water salinity levels, groundwater depth) and a first needs assessment for further implementation.

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