Brussels, 11 Apr 2003
An EU funded research project is crossing the political divide to bring about strategies for managing irrigation in the Mediterranean region.
Funded under the International Cooperation programme (INCO) of the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5), the sustainable water use in Mediterranean horticulture (HORTIMED) project aims to adapt irrigation solutions to a region where low quality water and high saline content are commonplace.
The project has a total of one million euro in funding and involves researchers from the drought regions of Egypt, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, Greece and Cyprus, who have come together with a common strategy to their problem.
'Research helps build bridges between cultures in the Middle East,' said European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin. 'The scientists involved are looking beyond political hostilities to construct a lasting framework for crop irrigation. Their endeavours will help to ensure that both Arabs and Israelis will have stable access to high quality crops as well as better drinking water supplies.'
The project has two inter-related priorities. The first is to provide fresh water to urban areas of the region. Researchers are carrying out experiments on the salinity and fertigation of crops in the cultivated climate of a greenhouse, with a view to reducing crop dependency upon fresh water. The expected results should improve the management of multiple water resources and determine the feasibility of water collection and treatment schemes.
Secondly, the project looks at methods to improve irrigation and produce better crops with low water quality such as crop and crop mixture rotations and drainage recycling. Researchers have also compiled existing studies of the salinity stress response of crops grown in greenhouses to derive functions relating yield and quality to levels of salinity
To ensure an integrated and cohesive approach to these experiments, a database has been launched in which all participating scientists are entering their data. At the completion of the project, scientists expect to have a comprehensive set of procedures which will be presented as recommendations for growers in the region.
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