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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 1 (2011 Deadline)

Utilization of low quality water for halophytic forage and renewable energy production 

PI: Kristina Toderich, International Center for Biosaline Agriculture/Samarkand Division of the Academy of Sciences  
US Partner:  Laurel Saito, University of Nevada
Project Dates: June 2012 - May 2014

Project Overview 

Salinization is a major problem facing the agricultural sector in arid and semi-arid regions of the world. A possible avenue for reclamation of saline lands is the use of halophytic species (salt-loving plants) that remove salts from saline soils and water. This proposal builds on research already underway by targeting the cultivation and sustainable production of halophytes for forage and renewable bioenergy uses on unproductive, marginal salinized lands surrounding hundreds of small lakes in the Aral Sea Basin in Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan Partnership Picture 2

Uzbekistan Partnership Picture 1

A researcher takes soil moisture readings on a test plot planted with the halophyte Salsola scleranthe, August 2013.

Dr. Toderich (second from right) with U.S. Embassy officials and local residents during a site visit to the Kyzylkesek region in May 2013.

 
Research has indicated these small lakes have potential utility as an aquatic resource for aquaculture or irrigation, but this utility is sensitive to inducing salinization that could render the water unusable. Hence, reclaiming saline lands near these lakes may benefit the economic utility of both land and water by reducing salt loads to the lakes. This project will investigate two aspects of halophyte use in relation to these lakes: 1) the use of saline water to irrigate halophytes and salt-tolerant crops, and 2) the economic utility of growing halophytes on marginal lands in relation to maintaining lake water quality and crop production. As one possible economic use, the project will assess the potential for integrating land reclamation using halophytes with bioenergy production and livestock feeding resources as degraded lands are made fertile. Research activities will involve collaborations with the Institute of Water Problems of the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan, Urgench State University, the Hydrometeorological Research Institute of Uzbekistan, and the NGO Khorezm Rural Advisory Support Service (KRASS).
 
Summary of Recent Activities
 
During October-December 2013, the many researchers involved in this project at several Uzbekistani institutions analyzed water and soil salinity trends in order to understand the low germination and survival rates of halophytes planted on the lake shores in the Shurkul Koshkupur area. Three soil profiles were analyzed by Uzbek (Prof. Fayzullaev, Urgench University) and Russian scientists (Prof. Marina Lebedeva, Dokuchaev Soil Institute, Russia) and later by U.S. Geological Survey researcher Michael Rosen, who visited the sites in November 2013. Based on the results of the collected data, an experimental plot area was laid out for next season at a site further away from the saline clays. In this plot a number of piezometers will be deployed to measure salinity levels and determine how planted halophytes affect groundwater levels. The research team also continued studying how halophytes might improve rangeland productivity if saline thermal water could be used for irrigation. Cultivation and sustainable utilization of wild or domesticated halophytic and salt-tolerant plants could play an important role for salinity control, remediation of saline lands, and improvement of livelihoods of rural communities.

 

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Socioeconomic survey in Ortayap village. Photo courtesy of Dr. Toderich.

Dr. Inna Rudenko surveying the villagers. Photo courtesy of Dr. Toderich.


Dr. Inna Rudenko carried out a socioeconomic survey of the Shurkul Lake area in Ortayap village, Kushkupir District, and area with the highest share of marginal land and the lowest average water productivity. The survey questionnaire covered such topics as livestock practices, opinions on access to and availability of fodder, household fuel sources for heating and cooking, crop cultivation practices, perceptions on the vegetation around the lake, and household income and expenditures. Dissemination of the project results have been ongoing as well. Three oral presentations and one poster presentation were made at the 11th annual Desert Technologies Conference in San Antonio, Texas, during November 19-22, 2013. The event was attended by more than 150 scientists, scholars, and other professionals from the United States, Japan, Egypt, India, Tunisia, Kuwait, Ethiopia, Germany, and Uzbekistan. Prof. Toderich also recently published several other conference presentation abstracts and international journal articles.