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Ezra Ravins, Director of the Southern Arava R&D, with one of the installed lysimeters.(Photo by: YOAV DEVIR KKL-JNF)
New Ways to Grow Dates in the Arava Desert
The world’s largest lysimeter system has been installed in a date plantation at the Southern Arava R&D, in order to study the relationships between the crops, land and water.
Living in the Southern Arava, the most remote and isolated region in Israel, is not easy. This is an arid desert, subject to extreme temperatures and with very little rain. It is especially difficult to be a farmer in such an area, but the local residents prove that with the spirit of determination, innovation, pioneering and cooperation, nothing is impossible.

As Ezra Ravins, Director of the Southern Arava R&D Station says: “The Arava is one of the harshest deserts in the world, but we see it as a challenge facing us and the state of Israel.”

Dates are the southern Arava’s main crop, and a central source of income for the approximately 4,000 local residents, who live in ten kibbutzim and two community villages. Arava dates are considered the best in the world, and the Arava is the largest exporter of dates to Europe: “I don’t think there’s any other tree that feels as comfortable here as the date tree,” Rabins notes.

It should come as no surprise that most plants (and in fact, most people) are deterred by a region in which the temperatures climb as high as 47 degrees centigrade in the summer and drop at night beneath 0 degrees, annual precipitation is a negligible 20 mms, and water evaporation as a result of intense solar radiation is about double of anywhere else in Israel.

The goal of the Southern Arava Research and Development (R&D) Station is to support farmers by means of applied research that studies growing methods, crop acclimation, and coping with climatic conditions. The research studies make it possible for the farmers to successfully grow their crops, improve yield and support their families. Needless to say, a good source of livelihood is also the key to absorbing new families and to the continued growth of the local communities.

An innovative research project, which is based on the use of a giant lysimeter, recently began with the support of JNF USA. The lysimeter is a unique system for measuring water and salt balances, providing a better understanding of the mutual relations between crops, land and water. The building of the lysimeter was made possible thanks to a contribution of the Asch family from Philadelphia.

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