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Establishment of a native plant nursery

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.

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Pilot scale organic greenhouse vegetable production

Project leader: Dr. N. R. Bhat ( Period: 2006 – 2009 )

Standardization of growing substrates & fertilizer application for organic greenhouse vegetable production
N. Bhat, M. Al-Bahouh, M. Suleiman, L. Al-Mulla, B. Thomas, S. Ali, P. George and M. Al-Zalzaleh Department of Aridland Agriculture and Greenery, Food Resources and Marine Sciences Division, Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research

Several countries have converted traditional farming operations into organic farming to overcome price competition and offer safe and healthy food products. Since organically certified produce commands premium prices, it could be a feasible alternative for Kuwait, where large imports of cheap vegetables from different countries have threatened the survival of local greenhouse operations. For this it is important to establish technical and economic benefits and encourage local producers to adopt this novel technology. Growing substrate and fertilizers play a crucial role in organic farming. Hence, Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research conducted studies during 2006-2007 to select a suitable growing substrate and standardize fertilizer application for production of organic greenhouse vegetables.

The project consisted evaluation of organic growing substrates; evaluation of nutrient formulations and application methods. Al-Faisaliya Farm sponsored the project by providing 2,000 m2 fan and pad-cooled greenhouses and covered all operational costs during the course of investigations. The existing multi-span greenhouses at the farm were modified to suit the project requirements. A number of vegetables were grown to select suitable growing substrate, development of optimal organic fertilizer application program, establish protocol for plant protection, and harvesting and handling techniques.

The results showed that the substrate containing vermicompost, avicumus, perlite and sphagnum peat moss (1:0.5:1:1 v/v) and vermicompost, coco peat, perlite and sphagnum peat moss (2:1:1:1 or 1:1:1:1 v/v) produce higher yields and increase net profits comparable or even better than the soil based growing system in lettuce, tomato, beans, cucumber and capsicum. Similarly, incorporation of an organic fertilizer, DOrS @ 15 kg/ cu m into the substrate followed by weekly soil drench application of Earth Juice products or Fish Hydrosylate at recommended rates produced significantly higher yields in tomato, cucumber and capsicum.

The project team thank the management of the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research for their continued interest, encouragement and financial support to the project. The contributions made by Al- Faisalia Farm are gratefully acknowledged. Total budget of the project was KD 19,718.

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.

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Sub-irrigation closed production system for protected cultivation (Phase II)

Project leader: Dr. Mohammed Al Bahou ( Period: 2006 – 2008 )

Assessment of Growth Media, Root Size Compartment and Fertilizer Source in the Closed Insulated Pallet System
M. Al-Bahouh, N. Bhat, H. Abo-Rezq and B. Thomas Department of Aridland Agriculture and Greenery, Food Resources and Marine Sciences Division, Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research

Traditional cultivation methods based on soil are not water-efficient mainly due to loss by excessive irrigation, percolation and evaporation. A recent threatening rise in water table reported in many farmlands in the Wafra area, reaching soil surface in certain places, has added to already existing problems associated with soil. One approach to alleviate these unfavorable conditions is to adopt cultivation systems that are not dependent on soils such as soilless culture techniques. The objective of this project was to refine an environmentally safe soilless technique for large-scale use in a closed production system.

The study was conducted in greenhouse conditions using the closed insulated pallet system (CIPS). It is based on a continuous subirrigation capillary system with fertilizers placed in reservoirs to ensure a reserve within the rootzone. Refinement evaluation in CIPS consisted of using three growing media, one of which is a control; two root compartment sizes, and two types of fertilizers, a standard and a slow release. Several vegetables were selected as test crops. These include tomato, cherry (cv. Sakura) tomato (cv. Cindel), cucumber (cvs. Hallal and Dinero), green (cv. Capino) and red (cv. Celica) peppers.

  • Vegetable crops responded differently to different growing substrates.
  • Tomato (cv. Cindel) performed significantly better in terms of yield components (up to 45% greater yield) in the large size pouch combined with slow-controlled fertilizer than when grown in other treatments. The cv. Sakura showed no difference in all treatments. Furthermore these substrates had significant effects on plant characteristics; heights, number of leaves, chlorophyll index and total yields.
  • Mean water uptakes for all the varieties were significantly lower in all growing media compared to the control (peat moss: perlite, 1:1, v:v).
  • Larger root volume combined with standard fertilizer treatment considerably increased the yield and yield parameters in sweet pepper (cvs. Celica and Capina) and cucumber (cv. Hallal).
  • Cucumber (cv. Dinero) provided higher yield with medium 2.
  • Capsicum and cucumber had greater vegetative growth rates and yields when fertilized with the standard fertilizer compared to the controlled-release fertilizer.
  • Chilli pepper had shorter fruit maturation and greater yield per plant when fertilized with controlled release and provided five times greater yield than standard fertilizer. The amount of total fertilizers utilized with CIPS was minimal.

Results recommend CIPS as a potential growing system in the protected agriculture due to its simplicity, high efficiency of water and fertilizer use, recyclability of many of its components and low resource requirements such as labor. In addition, it is an environmentally friendly system.

The authors thank Al-Faisaliya farm for providing in-kind support for the project amounting to KD 16,050 and appreciate the contribution by Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research for the rest of the budget (total budget KD 17,793).

Publications, conference presentations and reports arising from the project

M. Al-Bahouh, N. Bhat, H. Rezq and B. Thomas. (2009). Effect of Different Substrates on Growth and yield of Two Cultivars of Capsicum annua. European Journal of Scientific Research; 28(2): 227-233.