The Agriculture Research Organization's Volcani Institute – the research arm of the Agriculture Ministry – inaugurated on Tuesday night a NIS 13 million department for the study of desert agriculture and the impact of desertification, located at the existing Gilat Center for Arid and Semi-Arid Agricultural Research. The new division, called the Center for Arid Area Agriculture, includes 14 research teams and about 60 employees altogether, who will focus on crop protection, plant pests, irrigation and fertilization, a statement from the Volcani Institute said. "We are at the forefront of agriculture, trying to help farmers find solutions for all the growth there is in the Negev," said Dr. Uri Yermiyahu, director of the Gilat Center.Prof. Yoram Kapulnik, director of the Volcani Institute, stressed the importance of finding new solutions for food growth, as Israel continues to face both climate and demographic changes. "Our goal is to grow food on the threshold of the desert, something that around the world people are only beginning to study, but this is our goal and our mission," Kapulnik said.