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On-farm demonstration of Integrated Aqua - Agriculture systems in arid and semi-arid areas

On-farm demonstration of Integrated Aqua - Agriculture systems in arid and semi-arid areas

The ability of rural communities in arid areas to maintain food production is critical to their overall resilience and sustainability. It is a fact that a considerable number of farms in United Arab Emirates remain unproductive or productivity goes very low when salinity of groundwater increases above 15 dS/m. This is not related to the performance of existing crops but mainly due to their poor establishment. Field irrigation is also costly and over-fertilization of farmland can lead to high groundwater nitrate levels in dry regions. As a result, alternative water systems are needed to be applied and integrated solutions are seeked. In some cases, small-scale reverse osmosis (RO) plants are installed by farmers but good management practices need to be formulated. The integration of aquaculture with agriculture (IAA) constitutes a promising solution since it allows the reuse of water and nutrients to offset production costs while promoting greater sustainability in desert areas. Such systems seem to be easily adopted by farmers since the cost for inputs decreases and revenues are raised through both marine and agricultural products exploitation. The study looks into a complete on-farm management system that uses several types of water for irrigation purposes. Three types of irrigation systems are applied (drip irrigation system, sprayers and bubblers). The objectives of the study are: a) Seed production of asparagus, maize, quinoa, eggplant and okra with freshwater, b) Brine water from RO unit, aquaculture effluents and mixed brine water with groundwater are used to grow different salt-tolerant annual and perennial forages such as Sporobolus arabicus, Distichlis spicata, Sporobolus virginicus, Passpalum vaginatum, c) Soil and water is monitored for salts and other heavy metals or residues, d) Based on investment costs and revenues (yield in this case) cost benefit analyses will be conducted to examine the economical feasibility of a land-based IAA applied in a marginal environment and e) Selected Salicornia bigelovii populations are evaluated under two water regimes (RO- and aquaculture-brine) and irrigation systems (bubblers, sprinklers). The aquaculture set-up comprises of fish, sedimentation and seaweed tanks in sequential manner. The aquaculture system operates as follows. The brine water from RO-unit is directed to fish tanks. Then, fish wastewater flows to sedimentation tanks so that suspended solids can be removed naturally because of gravity. This partially filtered wastewater flows in the tanks where seaweeds grow. Seaweeds filter these effluents from dissolved remnants of nutrients which they use for their own growth. Then the water derived from seaweed tanks is directed for irrigation purposes as stated above.

Authors: 
Lyra, D, Ismail, S, Butt, K, Al'raj, B
Year: 
2014
Publication type: 
Conference Proceedings
Publication Source: 
Abstracts of the 2nd Arab-American Frontiers of Science, Engineering, and Medicine symposium

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