The ISFERALDA project aims at improving the soil quality in general in the arid and semi-arid context by applying organic amendments based on local agricultural residues. Analysis of the availability of the agricultural residues, the cost and the influence of different kinds of amendments on soil properties, such as soil water retention, SOC, soil microbial diversity, will determine the most relevant amendment which will be able to minimize the risk of failure with loss of yield. Analysis of the results will also allow the identification of the practices able to improve local actors’ livelihoods and provide a reliable information for designing public policies that will encourage the use or adoption of innovative and relevant cultural practices in the context of oases in arid and semi-arid area. Moreover, a more fertile soil, with better water retention properties and with a better microbial life will be better prepared for climate change and will therefore be more resilient to this change.
The improvement of soil water retention properties will reduce the water supply by irrigation, and therefore the need for groundwater, essential in these arid and semi-arid regions. Following the preliminary results, almost half the volumes of irrigated water could be saved, alleviating pressure on water resources, essential in arid and semi-arid regions. The lower need for irrigation water would also mitigate some environmental problems like groundwater contamination and salinization.
The amendments tested will lead to an improvement of soil fertility. It will improve the heterotrophic respiration of the soil and increase cation exchange capacity of soil. As a consequence, the improvement of soil fertility will lessen the needs for chemical fertilizer application. Increasing SOC will improve microbial and fungal life in the soil, and thus allow the soil to better degrade pollutants like pesticides, and the plant to be more vigorous in order to defend against attacks thanks to better access to nutrients.
The ISFARALDA project aims at improving soil quality in general. That would result in an increase of the yield and therefore an increase of the income. Based on preliminary results, the yields might increase by around 25%.
In ISFARALDA project, farmers will be involved to integrate their knowledge to the innovation process. Results from the laboratory and field experiments should be presented to the different local actors’ during days of dissemination of the results several times during the project in order to know the feelings of people close to the reality of the fields. Farmers’ opinions will be considered to reorient the innovation process if necessary and to guide public policies.
Crop recommendation sheets, that will be written, will help farmers to choose the best and the most relevant farming systems with or without amendments. The relevant farming system will depend on the priorities of each farmer: increase of soil water retention capacity, improvement of soil fertility, use of less irrigation water volume.
Finally, we expect that the results of this project could be used as an example for the future of the Saharan regions, where significant climate change may dramatically affect areas in which agriculture is an essential economic sector.