Science helps Moroccan crops thrive amid drought

Science helps Moroccan crops thrive amid drought
Photo Courtesy: International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA)

In a wheat field outside of Rabat, scientists from the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) marvel at their yield. 

"Look at these beautiful ears of wheat," WuletawTadesse Degu, the head of wheat breeding at ICARDAtold AFP.

"The difference in quality between our field and others is striking," he added. 

Tadesse is part of a team of scientists working on farming solutions for drought-prone countries like Morocco and Tunisia. 

The need is urgent. AFP reports that cultivated areas in Morocco are anticipated to decrease from 3.7 million hectares last year to 2.5 million this year. Cereal yields are projected to plummet by over 50%.

The strategy relies on controlled irrigation, specialized sowing techniques and using genetically modified seeds.

"It has become essential to use resilient seeds and to employ them as quickly as possible," said Tadesse.

Under ICARDA’s stewardship, crops have flourished. Despite last year’s drought, they achieved a yield of four tons per hectare with just 200 millimeters of rainfall. 

Scientists assert that judiciously applying as little as 10 millimeters of water can transform barren land into fertile farmland. 

ICARDA operates in 17 African and Asian nations. It says it has created 30 “elite lines” of grain. 

Last year, Moroccan agricultural authorities greenlit six new wheat and barley varieties. However, the certification process is prolonged and farmers have largely stuck to their old ways of farming. Nonetheless, scientists are optimistic that with the support of the Moroccan government, widespread adoption is on the horizon. 

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