Israel is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, and yet only 20% of the land is arable – and half of that has to be irrigated. More than half of Israel is arid or semi-arid, and the rest of the country is dominated by steep hillsides and forests. Israeli agriculture today is different from what it used to be, with a huge shift incorporating state of the art technologies in water consumption and in the use of pesticides. Most of the new technologies find their way rapidly into the international market and are available to farmers all over the globe. Two examples of new innovations of this kind are drip irrigation and cherry tomatoes. Being a small and young country whose development has been so explosive, Israeli agricultural history offers difficult scenario for dryland nations that seek a sustainable route for their farming sector.
Since Israel’s founding, much of the country’s focus, allocation of resources and expertise have been devoted to agriculture. Due to the scarcity of natural resources, Israel has developed innovative methods and technologies for “growing more with less” under difficult conditions long before increasing agricultural productivity became one of the world’s most acute issues. In the process, Israel gained deep insights and know-how which, together with its record accomplishments in agriculture, positioned it as a leader in several areas of Agri-Technology. Israel’s expertise lies in arid climate agriculture, efficient dairy farms, resilient seeds, and drip irrigation as well as novel plants.
As Israeli farmers and scientists have had to cope with a difficult environment, striking rainfall inequalities and limited water resources, their experience is especially relevant to the developing world. Development of greenhouse equipment, seed and livestock propagation, fertilizers and pesticides have enabled Israeli agriculture to prosper in adversity. In addition, farmers have learned to develop high value-added and innovative farm products that enable them to compete in markets with lower-cost producers. Water management, recycling, desalination and transportation in the National Water Carrier have enabled the country to overcome drastic shortages.
Every Drop Counts: Perhaps the most innovative development in water utilization has been drip irrigation, conceived in Israel. Today, networks of plastic pipes with small openings for each plant or tree are strategically placed across fields. Via the drippers, controlled amounts of fertilizer can be pumped through the irrigation pipes to the plants – a system known as “fertigation”. Traditionally, drip irrigation has been used in regions where water is scarce, but it has also been effective where rainfall is high because of its precision.
Bugs at Bay: Plagues of insects, fungi and weeds beset farmers worldwide, and Israeli companies have developed a range of pesticides and herbicides as well as non-chemical and biological control methods. Israel is home to the world’s largest producer of generic agro-chemicals. Manufacturers produce large quantities of methyl bromide and formaline for disinfecting the soil. Environmentally friendly detergents which coat leaves have been developed to create a physical barrier between the parasite and the leaf without harming the leaf. Other recent developments include a defoliant for cotton and herbicides for early treatment of weeds.
Greenhouses for Hot Climates has been adapted by Israel for use in arid regions. Some 3,000 hectares of greenhouse cultivation enable farmers to overcome restrictions imposed by soil quality, arid climate and limited water supply. Several Israeli companies manufacture and export woven high-tech plastic sheeting and specialize in custom greenhouse projects, including consultation, installation and maintenance. Due to the high initial investment, greenhouses are best suited for high value-added crops such as vegetables, flowers, ornamental plants and spices, and for intensive farming.
Best of the Breed: Israeli scientists have developed seed varieties that are resistant to disease, provide higher and better-quality yields with less water even in hot climates and produce food with a longer shelf life. Recent innovations include a variety of hybrid cotton with longer, stronger fibers, which gives a higher yield while requiring less water; some varieties are grown in natural colors of brown or green. Sophisticated methods of crossbreeding have developed seeds that minimize the need for fertilizers and pesticides, producing high added-value crops.
The agricultural sector is based almost entirely on R&D, implemented by cooperation between farmers and researchers. Through a well-established extension service system, research results are quickly transmitted to the field for trial and implementation and problems are brought directly to the scientist for solutions. Manufacturers of agro-technological inputs and their customers increasingly realize that their products are most effective when accompanied by professional services. Drip irrigation systems and greenhouses are more productive when the infrastructure is custom designed, installed and later maintained to meet a customer’s specific needs. Productivity of fertilizers, pesticides and genetically developed seeds and livestock can be maximized by consultation with professionals.
Experts are now specializing in upgrading agricultural production for entire regions. Companies take on turnkey projects that incorporate more efficient water use, irrigation systems and crop and seed choice. They also advise on seasonal timing to fetch the best prices on world markets, on choice of fertilizer and pesticide to minimize environmental damage, and on the selection of livestock. Farmers of a particular region are then trained to use their newly acquired technologies.
The Centers of Excellence provide a suitable platform for a rapid transfer of technology to the farmers.
These “Agricultural Centers of Excellence,” are funded by both the Central Government’s National Horticulture Mission (NHM) and by individual State Governments wherein they allocate land and professional manpower. Knowhow and new agricultural technologies such as protected cultivation, drip irrigation and fertigation are demonstrated at the centers with the aim to be adopted by the farmers. They address both small and large farm holders thus offering a wide range of agricultural practices – from Hi-Tech poly-houses to walking tunnels and net houses, in order to enable all to benefit from the new technologies. During the establishment and operation of those Centers, the technologies and methods are adapted to the local conditions and requirements of the farmers.
In addition to all of the above we, the Trade and Economic mission of Israel in Mumbai would like to inform you about Israel- India Agritech Webinar which will be held on24th June. To know more about the event, write to us at Pearlini.Wathore@israeltrade.gov.il.
Ministry of Economy and Industry, Israel