Project leader: Dr. Gary Brown ( Period: 2006 - 2008 )
Department of Aridland Agriculture and Greenery, Food Resources and Marine Sciences Division, Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research
In recent decades, the rangelands of Kuwait have suffered from massive degradation caused by a number of factors, most notably overgrazing. Furthermore, the military activities associated with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait led to a marked deterioration in their condition. The damage to the rangelands is so severe that in the short to medium-term, specific restoration measures are required to promote vegetation regeneration. Regarding damage caused by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC) strongly recommended remediation techniques that facilitate natural recovery processes. This will inevitably require large numbers of native plant species to be planted or seeded, which in turn will necessitate the involvement of the private sector to ensure that these plants can be grown within a short time-frame. The primary aim of this Research Activity was to develop the infrastructure and initiate a large-scale operation aimed at growing native plants for habitat restoration in cooperation with the private sector (Al-Faisaliya Farm in Wafra, Kuwait).
fter establishing the necessary infrastructure at Al-Faisaliya Farm in Wafra, including a new greenhouse and shade house, as well as preparing several large fields for outplanting, work began on the propagation of the different species. Germination was initially carried out in the KISR laboratory, and the seedlings were transported to Wafra where they were planted in small Jiffy pots. After about 4-8 weeks, plants were transferred to 5-gallon pots for further growth in the greenhouse, before they were either outplanted to the field or moved to the shade house for longer-term storage.
During the one-year duration of the project, approximately 45,000 native plants belonging to 10 species were produced. Key species that were propagated in large quantities included Calligonum comosum, Farsetia aegyptia, Panicum turgidum, Pennisetum divisum and Rhanterium epapposum. Smaller quantities of the following species were propagated: Astragalus sieberi, Convolvulus oxyphyllus, Helianthemum lippii, Lycium shawii and Salvia spinosa. Approximately 21,000 plants have been planted in the field to be used for seed/forage production; a further 24,000 are located in the greenhouse/shade house and can be used directly for restoration projects.
Growth of the plants was rapid and remarkably, some individuals of the ecologically important dwarf shrubs Farsetia and Rhanterium began flowering in the field plots within a few months, producing seed after just 5 months of growth. Growth of the plants was rapid and remarkably, some individuals of the ecologically important dwarf shrubs Farsetia and Rhanterium began flowering in the field plots within a few months, producing seed after just 5 months of growth. Two large fields that were planted with the native grasses Panicum turgidum and Pennisetum divisum also grew extremely well, and required relatively little water to produce a substantial amount of biomass.
The large scale production of native perennial plant species has been shown to be technically feasible with relatively little investment required for infrastructure. The plants produced can be used for ecosystem restoration purposes, which could be of great relevance if the large-scale UNCC-funded remediation and revegetation projects are implemented in Kuwait. Large quantities of seeds are produced by these plants after just one year. This shows that a seed production unit is technically feasible, which will be of great relevance to the UNCC-funded projects. Apart from restoration purposes, the native perennial grasses can be used as an excellent source of fodder for domestic livestock, especially as they require relatively little irrigation water when compared to conventional grasses.
Knowledge and experience gained from this project will prove invaluable once the large-scale production of native plants species as part of the UNCC-funded remediation activities in Kuwait are initiated. The results of the project will also be of great benefit to Kuwait's Environmental Remediation Program (KERP). The production of native grasses using little water could have important implications for agriculture, as the grass can be harvested as a cost efficient source of highly palatable forage.