Ben-Gurion University Planting an Olive tree Forest in the Desert for Agricultural Research

on April 19, 2012 10:45 AM EDT

Olive tree
Ben-Gurion University planting an olive tree forest in the desert for agricultural research (Photo: Flickr.com/Ride to dine)

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU) is launching a new initiative to advance desert agriculture to coincide with Earth Day and Arbor Day. An olive tree forest is being planted in Wadi Mashash, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev's (BGU) agricultural research farm located about 20 miles south of Beer-Sheva, Israel.

This initiative will contribute to desert agriculture research that is environmentally friendly and promotes one of BGU's major missions to sustainably develop the Negev and make the desert bloom.

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"The olive tree is a symbol of Israel, a reminder of our extraordinary heritage in our biblical homeland and a prized example of the remarkable agricultural and energy potential of drylands around the world," says Doron Krakow, AABGU executive vice president. "The research done at Wadi Mashash will bring knowledge to the world - knowledge that will help produce food, cash crops and more sustainable farming practices."

Wadi Mashash is the only site in Israel where agricultural production is entirely based on the collection and use of the desert's rare flood waters. The techniques developed at Wadi Mashash are used to combat desertification worldwide and facilitate sustainable development of drylands. Already, much of the knowledge gained by past experiments, such as an acacia tree forest, is helping many countries in Africa grow trees for food, fodder and firewood without depleting all their resources.

Prof. Pedro Berliner, director of BGU's Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, currently heads the research centered on agroforestry systems irrigated with runoff water. Agroforestry technology called the "intercrop system" will be used in the new olive grove. In between each row of olive trees, a grain (the intercrop) will be planted. The commercial "opportunity" crop will provide food for both animals and people. The fruit of the olive trees will be used to produce high quality olive oil.

The grove is being planted, managed and studied by students at the Blaustein Institutes' Albert Katz International School for Desert Studies. To learn more about the Seed Desert Research initiative, go to www.aabgu.org/olivetrees.

Source: American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

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