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Abstract

Introduction The research developed strategies to be adopted in Qatar to enhance agricultural production and improve the food security situation of the country. The government of Qatar has instituted plans to boost its food security and, as part of the wider food security plan, the country needs improved agricultural technologies and in-country farming techniques to increase crop yields. This QNRF-funded food security project sought to apply innovative technologies and decision support tools to provide strategies for successful vegetable food production on the local Qatari scene. The research has provided methodologies to assist Qatari researchers and Policy makers to make informed decisions about appropriate crops and timing for profitable in-country farming. Rationale The agricultural production problems faced by Qatar are similar to many other arid and semi-arid countries. The challenges faced by Qatar in improving agricultural production represent a wide range of sustainable agriculture issues including limited arable land and water resources, high temperatures associated with high humidity, salinity, plant pests and plant diseases. This research addresses these problems by contributing to the application of innovative ways of maximizing water and nutrient use efficiency for agriculture, and choosing the appropriate planting times for vegetable cultivation. Appropriate preservation of soils for agricultural purposes is not practiced in Qatar. Therefore, this research was carried out to showcase modern technological innovations with the potential to accelerate in-country vegetable production so as to enhance food security in Qatar. Methods The project consisted of four sub-projects, namely Sub-Project 1 (crop management), Sub-Project 2 (soil management and desertification), Sub-Project 3 (financial risk management) and Sub-Project 4 (combination of the three sub-Projects). The respective tasks of the sub-Projects were as follows Sub-Project 1 developed a decision-making framework for sustainable and profitable cropping in Qatar, and used the FAO AquaCrop model to carry out crop growth simulations of cucumber, squash, and tomato (Qatar), and wheat (Australia). Sub-Project 2 utilised the Soil Constraints and Management Package (SCAMP) to assess intrinsic soil and site constraints for sustainable production. The sub-Project also identified several strategies to improve crop productivity. Sub-project 3 derived an integrated drought derivative model that incorporated geo-specific weather factors, crop-growth cycles, and soil management practices to minimize financial risk. Sub-Project 4 combined the climate, crop, soil and financial components to develop an integrated decision-making framework as well as a targeted partner engagement and communication strategy. Results and Discussion The AquaCrop model is recommended for use in simulating yields of crops to assess the effects of agronomic practices including planting dates, soil characteristics, and water/nutrient use efficiency. Months for optimum vegetable planting are September and December. March planting can produce similar yields but more water is required. Because of higher temperatures and greater vapour pressure deficits during the March to June period, field crop yields from these planting dates are highly variable, resulting in very inefficient use of water. It is therefore recommended that planting during this time period in the field should be avoided. It is critically important to maximize water use efficiency in irrigated field crops in Qatar because of the link between water use efficiency and nitrogen use efficiency. It is essential that N fertilizer inputs closely match crop N requirements, and ammonium-based N fertilizers be used in preference to nitrate-N fertilizers. Regular monitoring of the salinity of the irrigation water is required to ensure that it does not exacerbate the current soil salinity status. As nutrient budgets of field-grown squash and tomato have identified a mismatch between nutrient inputs and crop demand in current management practices, the key soil fertility analyses of extractable phosphorus, organic carbon and exchangeable potassium should be undertaken to inform fertilizer management.The Financial Drought model developed using the reconnaissance drought index (RDI) can be used. A policy brief is available on the operation of derivative systems to protect farmers from production risk.The optimization model developed by incorporating a risk measure is recommended for further application. The developed user-friendly output interface for the model can be used for effective application. Significance The project initiated new dialogue between Government and private sector stakeholders in Qatar on food security strategies. Stakeholders were made aware of the lack of current information on the fertility of soils and quality of irrigation water used for vegetable crops in Qatar. The project concentrated on field production of vegetable crops (cucumber, squash and tomato) identified by a preliminary survey of local consumers. Training opportunities were provided for six students in Qatar, Canada and Australia. Results were presented at eight international conferences where QNRF was acknowledged. An analysis of evapotranspiration data for Qatar was conducted and results published. This is the first study of its type for Qatar (Issaka et al. 2017). Conclusions The research has developed a strategy that is in alignment with QNRS Grand Challenge # 1 - Water Security, by focusing on water use efficiency for crop production. It also informs on the optimal times for planting vegetable crops, and reduces fertilizer inputs and costs by avoiding excessive fertilizer use. A key component of the strategy is the need for fertilizer inputs to be closely matched to crop nutrient requirements using a nutrient budget and soil test approach. Regular monitoring of irrigation water salinity is essential to avoid increased salinization. The Financial Drought model will be beneficial in protecting farmers from production risk. Finally, the optimization model will be beneficial in improving farming decisions. Recommendations for Future Research and Development There are major advances in water and nutrient use efficiency that could be applied in both open field and greenhouse agriculture in Qatar, with the objective of making maximum effective use of their very limited water and arable soil resources. Examine how project outputs (AquaCrop/economic and crop selection model, soil / water/ nutrient/ solar radiation use efficiency, communication packages) can be embedded in Qatar's Research and Educational programs. Engage more actively with the Department of Agriculture of the Ministry of Municipality and Environment, and its particular interests in both the broader food security issues, and the tools being offered by the project. Acknowledgement This research was made possible by a NPRP award [NPRP 6-064-4-001] from the Qatar National Research Fund (a member of The Qatar Foundation). The statements in the Report are solely the responsibility of the authors.

References A.K.S. Huda, A.I. Issaka, S. Kaitibie, M. M. Haq, I. Goktepe, A. Moustafa, K. Abdella, M. Pollanen, P.W. Moody, N. Vock, N. Huda, and K.J. Coughlan (2017). Improving Food Security in Qatar: Assessing Alternative Cropping Systems Feasibility and Productivity in Variable Climates, Soil and Marketing Environments (NPRP 6-064-4-001). Final Report, Qatar National Research Foundation, 79pp A. I. Issaka, J. Paek, K. Abdella, M. Pollanen, A. Huda, S. Kaitibie, I. Goktepe, M. Haq and A. Moustafa (2017). «Analysis and Calibration of Empirical Relationships for Estimating Evapotranspiration in Qatar: Case Study.» Journal of irrigation and drainage engineering 143(2): 05016013.

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/content/papers/10.5339/qfarc.2018.EEPP126
2018-03-12
2020-07-04
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