OECD report lauds Israel's irrigation management

Use of recycled sewage, desalinated water makes farming efforts more fruitful.

irrigation water 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
irrigation water 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Israel’s careful management of its agricultural water supply and its implementation of innovative water technologies have led to an increase in crop productivity, a report from the OECD and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has determined.
In a chapter on “Achieving Sustainable Agricultural Productivity Growth” in July’s Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2012-2021, the report reflects how Israel’s use of efficient water systems has helped farmers become more fruitful in their produce.
The purpose of the overall Agricultural Outlook is “to build a consensus on global prospects for the agriculture, fisheries and food sectors, and on emerging issues which affect them,” according to the OECD. Among the many chapters are global analyses and market projections for biofuels, cereals, oilseeds, sugar, meats, dairy products and fish and seafood for the 2012 to 2021 period.
Within the chapter on productivity growth is a section in which Israel appears, titled, “What farm practices can increase sustainable agricultural productivity growth?” The section uncovers that average productivity from natural rainwater in dry areas of North Africa and West Asia amounts to only about 0.35 to 1 kg. of wheat grain for every cu.m. of water, quoting an International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas paper drafted for a 2006 ICARDA meeting in Syria.
The ICARDA report found that with supplemental irrigation and good water management processes, that same cu.m. can produce 2.5 kg. of grain, but only looked at water efficiency systems in Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Sudan Syria, Tunisia, Turkey and Yemen.
Just after mentioning these ICARDA statistics, athe report praises water management in Israel, noting that “agricultural use of water in Israel decreased almost continuously from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s,” after which, the quantities became stable around 2008.
This overall diminished agricultural water use has caused agriculture’s share of total water use to drop from over 70 percent in 1980, to 57% in 2005, to an expected 52% in 2025, the report says.
The increased use of recycled sewage and desalinated water has also contributed heavily to Israeli agriculture’s significant decreased burden on the country’s water supply.
While agricultural water use is expected to begin rising again by the year 2025, it will likely do so at a much lower rate than that of urban and industrial water.
One crucial component of the Israeli agricultural water system is the way the overall efficiency of the sector has been improved due to technological advancements in irrigation innovation.
“As a result of these improvements in agricultural water use efficiency, Israel is now a world leader in the management and technologies related to irrigation in arid environments,” the report adds.
Drip irrigation, which was developed in Israel in the 1960s, has since become “the key innovation behind the rise in technical water use efficiency,” and its use combined with the implementation of advanced sprinkler technologies have eliminated the need for flood irrigation.
Israel’s substantial increase in water efficiency has also led to an increase in crop production “Better water management can generate benefits for health, agricultural and industrial production, and can preserve ecosystems and the watershed services they provide, thereby avoiding the enormous costs that can be imposed by flooding, drought or the degradation of watershed services,” the report adds.
Another highlight refers to partnerships among small land holders and large companies that have led to productivity growth in Indonesia – for palm oil, rubber, sugarcane growth. A program initiated by Indonesia’s Agriculture Ministry provides large, nucleus companies capital and long-term leases to state land, on condition that they provide incentives and credit and services to small land holders.
Additional systems featured for achieving increased agricultural productivity include a revamped urea fertilizer system used by Bangladeshi rice farmers, and zinc fertilizer boosters for increasing grain yield in Central Anatolia, Turkey.