from the January 2012 issue

Israel: 300 tons tomatoes per hectare

How can vegetable farmers in a desert produce 300 tons of tomatoes in one year per hectare? They don't have fertile soil and they have only little water, yet the Israeli farmers in Arava, the southernmost part of the Negev desert in Israel, are producing just that. The amazing feat is the result of technology developed through sustained innovative research and development program, plus an active extension service that keeps the farmers abreast of the latest developments in farming. The Arava area is sparsely populated. There are only about 600 families in eight settlements consisting of about 3,000 people. Yet, they are able to produce about 150,000 tons of vegetables a year in greenhouses. Most of the vegetables are exported to Europe and elsewhere, accounting for about 60 percent of the total vegetable export of Israel.

Israel is considered the pioneer in drip irrigation. The biggest drip irrigation company in the world is the Netafim, followed by Jain Irrigation Systems in India, which incidentally has recently acquired another company in Israel, now known as NaandanJain. In fertigation, the exact amount of water and fertilizer is supplied to the plants. This has several advantages. One is that there is economy in the use of water and fertilizer. Fertigated crops are earlier-maturing. The harvest is higher, and is of better quality. Fruits are usually sweeter. Genetics is also very important. Plant breeders in Israel are continually developing new varieties that suit the growing conditions in Israel. These include crops that are not only high yielding but are also resistant to pests and diseases, tolerant to drought conditions and the like. Crops are not the only products grown in the Arava area.

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report January 2012

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