Israeli scientists teach Indians greenhouse technology

Israeli scientists teach Indians greenhouse technology

Wednesday, 03 November 2004, 08:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: Two Israeli scientists are here teaching Indian researchers techniques in greenhouse cultivation to help increase agricultural production by over 50 percent.

"In addition, greenhouses and drip irrigation reduce wastage of water and fertilizers and disallow the growing of weeds, giving rise to healthier and more nutritious plants. They are ideal for water deficient areas," Eli Taari, one of the scientists, told IANS.

Taari and fellow scientist Yiftach Giladi have been sent by Mashav, a branch of the Israeli foreign affairs ministry, as part of the Indo-Israel project in agriculture that was set up in September 1998.

The two scientists arrived here Oct 25 and will stay put till Thursday. They are teaching 30 scientists from across the country, acquainting them with the latest technologies on greenhouses.

"In Israel, many off-season fruits such as strawberries and vegetables like cucumbers and tomatoes as well as fresh herbs like basil and oregano are cultivated using greenhouse technology.

"Seventy percent of the flowers cultivated this way are now being used for export," said Taari, who had earlier headed a team to promote drip irrigation and new technologies in greenhouses among the small farmers in South Africa, Namibia, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

At the Indian Agriculture Research Institute here, 10 hectares of land has been dedicated for the Indo-Israel project, where Indian scientists would learn the latest scientific developments in agriculture in Israel.

Massive greenhouses housing exotic varieties of flowers and vegetables co-exist with wide, open fields where specially developed breeds of cabbage, tomato, cucumber and other vegetables are grown using drip irrigation technology.

Made of polyethylene, the greenhouses allow only 80 percent of sunlight to enter the crop area. This is balanced by natural ventilation techniques such as side net windows, skylights and fans that keep the temperature relatively constant.

"In summers when the weather is dry, we manage a temperature of 29 degrees Celsius in the greenhouse. During the more humid days, the temperature within is around 35 degrees Celsius. During winters, we manage to bring up the temperature to around 26 degrees Celsius," said N.P.S. Sirohi, head of the Indo-Israel project head.

"This technology has now been adopted in many Indian states, and each has incorporated locally available materials. In the northeast you'll find them using bamboo, in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh wood," he said.

Said Taari: "In Israel, we have developed greenhouses that allow only certain spectrum of light to filter through. This helps curb insect and microbial activity. We have also developed a new soil-less mode of cultivation where crops are grown using a host of other material such as coconut fibre and certain chemicals to replace soil."

For drip irrigation, long tubes carry water mixed with fertilizers, right up to the base of every plant in the open fields, so as to enable uniform distribution and avoid wastage.

While machines are used to pump the tube water in larger fields, the smaller fields (80 sq metres to 1,000 sq metres) have the water source placed at a height of one and a half metres so that the water reaches plants under natural pressure, Sirohi explained.

"This (pump-less drip irrigation) is ideal in India where power is deficient. Drip irrigation is now followed in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, especially in the dry areas," Sirohi said.

Source: IANS
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