The President, Sheikh Mohamed planted a ghaf tree to mark World Environment Day during a tour of a Dubai agricultural research centre dedicated to boosting sustainability and food security across the region and beyond.
Sheikh Mohamed was told of crucial research being conducted at the International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture on Sunday, including studies to improve the resilience of trees, with a focus on those with higher levels of tolerance of water salinity.
He was briefed on the centre's continuing efforts to explore sustainable management of natural resources, irrigation efficiency, climate-adapted crops, and genome research into crops health.
The ghaf, the national tree of the UAE, is known for its ability to withstand and thrive in challenging environmental conditions. It serves as a hopeful symbol for the important work being carried out to advance farming methods across the Emirates.
Sheikh Mohamed was joined on the visit by Mariam Al Mheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment; Razan Al Mubarak, managing director of Environment Agency Abu Dhabi; Sheikh Nahyan bin Zayed, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Foundation for Charitable and Humanitarian Works; Sheikh Saif Bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior; Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs; and Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Zayed and a number of officials from the centre.
The president praised staff for their vital contribution to agriculture development, which is set to be a significant sector in the UAE for years to come.
He said the centre embodied the country's vision to promote sustainable development through innovation and scientific research. Sheikh Mohamed said the centre helped to find answers to pressing challenges posed by the climate and to safeguard precious water resources.
Centre at heart of global effort
The ICBA was established in 1999 and has since cemented its position as a global hub for research and development across agriculture.
It focuses on developing solutions for marginal environments — those with poor soil quality and which are more vulnerable to climate change, water scarcity and salinity — and works with more than 50 countries across the globe.
Its work includes harnessing technology to improve crop production and monitoring droughts.
Under its Plant Genetic Resources Programme, it has distributed nearly 9,000 seed samples to scientists, farmers and other stakeholders in 57 countries.
The centre also supported a major water-saving project for UAE farmers.
Farmers can now use new software that helps to plan crop planting and also calculate how much water their land will need over a year.
A study carried out over many years to trace the flow of sap in date palm trees showed that farmers are using nearly three times as much water than they need to irrigate their plants.
It found that farmers typically irrigate each tree with about 300 litres of water a day.
However, by measuring the amount of sap flowing in the trunk of a date palm, researchers found they could cut that to 180 litres a day during the summer, and to as little as 60 to 80 litres in winter. This would save up to 80 per cent of the water used on the country's farms.
Part of a joint research project by the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi and New Zealand Plant and Food Research, the experiments provided advice on how to balance the requirements of date farmers and the need to conserve water.
Long probes were inserted into the trunks of date palms at the ICBA to measure sap flow.
UAE's enterprising agriculture strategy
This week, a plan to develop plant varieties and animal breeds that are better suited to the UAE’s environmental conditions has been unveiled by Abu Dhabi's government.
The Abu Dhabi Agricultural Genome Programme will involve scientific research centres carrying out work to create the new varieties and breeds.
It will also include the setting up of a database of genetic resources and a store of actual material, an approach that, elsewhere, has often resulted in the creation of seed banks.
The initiative has been launched by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Agriculture and Food Safety (ADAFSA) and is part of the authority’s 2022 to 2025 plan to enhance food security.