Overall objective: increasing the resilience of agroecosystems to climate change while ensuring comparable or higher incomes to local farmers

In semi-arid and arid areas and notably in oases, farms are mostly small estates, rarely reaching a few hectares. Farming management of these small surface exploitations have to be highly productive to be profitable. Despite being traditionally intensive, it has always remained a subsistence agriculture, inputs are weak, mechanization is very low and the production system is based on manual labor force. Furthermore, the ecosystems of these agrosystems are affected by numerous factors threatening their sustainability: e.g. the absence of surface water, soil and groundwater salinization, soil contamination, decline of soil fertility, excessive use of soils without significant restitution or rotation, and especially climate change that may accelerate invasions of pest/disease and reduce water availability.

The main goal of the project is to increase the resilience of agroecosystems to climate change by enhancing soil properties and soil fertility with organic amendments (OA). The OAs will be produced mostly from agricultural wastes, and more precisely from date palm residues. The date palm culture is widespread in the southern part of the Mediterranean and generates a lot of wastes that are not recovered today. Applying this amendment will improve soil fertility and properties, such as water retention, on the one hand, and will ensure comparable or higher incomes to local farmers, on the other hand.

The ISFERALDA specific objectives (SO) to reach the breakthrough are the following ones:

  • SO1: based on interviews of the local farmers, identify the problems, the solution the farmers adopt to resolve these problems and to enhance soil fertility;

  • SO2: achieve a state of the art of recent and ancestral existing agricultural waste treatment technologies, focusing on date palm residue recycling;

  • SO3: develop innovative OA for the most widely cultivated and nutrient demanded crops in oases of arid and semi-arid regions in Mediterranean by recycling date palm residues, which can be considered as an agricultural waste. An OA based on this abundant local resource would therefore represent a durable solution that is widely adaptable to a large part of these countries. Its realization would create local employment and develop local economy. Moreover, its application would improve the quality of a large part of the soils in these regions.

  • SO4: optimize the management of organic and mineral amendments of the main commercial crops, aiming to maximize yields and minimize environmental impacts. The increase of yields would result from an improvement in soil fertility and agronomic properties of soils with the reduction of the use of fertilizers and the reduction of carbon footprint by recycling agricultural wastes.

  • SO5: increase competiveness of Mediterranean agricultural products and profits via the reduction of external inputs (irrigation water and fertilizers) and the increase of the yields.

  • SO6: based on cost/benefits study, disseminate the new knowledge to the agricultural main actors to upscale results from case studies to regional and national scale across Mediterranean Basin.

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