Research in the UAE on Sustainable Bio-Energy Shows Promising Results
Meeting local food needs and achieving food security in many arid climate countries is limited by water availability. When coupled with the rise in demand for renewable energy, especially bio-energy, we face real challen ges in managing the competition for land and water resources. That is why; policy and decision makers are looking for opportunities that provide renewable sources of energy while not inducing additional pressure on agriculture land and water resources.Seawater-based agriculture is a new frontier in the production of crops in coastal areas. Among the crops that have potential to be grown with seawater and can be economically viable, are mangroves and Salicornia.
Salicornia is a unique species in that it grows in salty water and has seeds can produce an abundant amount of biomass for bio-fuel. The International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) based in Dubai is, with its partners, carrying out research on this promising plant. ICBA has rich experience in the evaluation of genetic material and optimizing different types of production systems under saline conditions. ICBA and Masdar Institute are collaborating to look at the potential for growing Salicornia under UAE conditions." Dr. Shoaib Ismail, Halophyte Agronomist at ICBA reports "In addition to Masdar Institute, several other companies like Boeing, Etihad Airways, and UOP Honeywell, are looking at the potential of growing Salicornia with seawater for use as a bio-fuel and maintaining CO2 equilibrium."ICBA is also collaborating with the King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST) who have acquired and developed many genotypes of Salicornia for their breeding program. Dr. Shoaib adds, "ICBA is collaborating with both Masdar and KAUST in evaluation of about 50 different genotypes under seawater condition. Recently the Wagneingen University, the Netherlands, also have shown interest to test their Salicornia material under UAE local condition."Preliminary results of the trials done in 2012 and 2013 showed the potential of growing Salicornia under seawater irrigation in UAE. Fresh biomass varied from 40-60 tons/ha/year, whereas, seed yield varied from 0.5-1.9 t/ha/year. The current work will not only further validate the results of different genotypes, but also the oil and other seed content.ICBA is showcasing some of their Salicornia project results and highlighting the importance of Salicornia and the potential that this crop can bring to the UAE in particular and the GCC region in general during their participation at WETEX 2013.ICBA is an international research organization with a team of international scientists conducting applied research to improve the well-being of poor farmers in marginal environments. ICBA’s work addresses the closely linked challenges of water, environment, income, and food security. The Center’s applied research for development aims to address the agricultural challenges in marginal environments including assessment of natural resources, climate change adaptation, crop productivity and diversification, aquaculture and bio-energy and policy analysis. ICBA is working on a number of technology developments including the use of conventional and non-conventional water (such as saline, treated wastewater, industrial water and seawater); water and land management technologies and remote sensing and modeling for climate change adaptation. Building capacity and sharing knowledge is an important part of all ICBA does. ICBA’s work reaches countries, including least developed countries, in Central Asia and the Caucasus, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), South and South East Asia, sub Saharan Africa and Gulf Cooperation Council countries.