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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 - June 2015

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

Uzbekistan Partnership Picture 1
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
To build capacity among local farmers, the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) worked with Samarkand State University, the Khokimyat (local city administration) and Farmer Association of Samarkand Region, the Ecological Movement of the Republic of Uzbekistan, and CGIAR PFU (ICARDA, IWMI, CIP) for Central Asia and Caucasus to organize a training seminar for farmers to present and discuss technological innovations in agriculture and food security. The event was entitled “Innovations in agriculture as basis for protection and rational use of natural, land and water resources” and it was conducted March 5-6, 2014, at Samarkand State University. The approximately 180 participants included farmers, animal breeders, extension officers, scientists, policymakers, private sector representatives, students, international consultants and governmental leaders. Topics on promotion of innovation/best practices in conservation agriculture, biosaline agriculture and soil salinity management, pasture improvement, irrigation, land, and water and dryland ecosystems function were covered, thus familiarizing the trainees with novel approaches and new visions in the agriculture and food security sectors. Farmers and researchers from 5 districts (Samarkand, Syrdarya, Andijan, Khoresm and Bukhara) also took part during the teleconference debates, moderated by Dr Akmal Karimov (IWMI-CAC). Farmers have shown great interest in transfers of agricultural innovations, modern technologies for growing plants on degraded and marginal lands, effective methods of water use, adoption of conservation agriculture technologies, and integrated pest control. They also mentioned the contribution and positive role of international programs in agriculture development and food security. 

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 Socioeconomic survey in Ortayap village (photo courtesy of Dr. Toderich)

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Dr. Inna Rudenko surveying the villagers (photo courtesy of Dr. Toderich)

Apart from the meeting at Samarkand State University, in collaboration with the Coordinating Committee for Development of Science and Technology of the Cabinet of Ministers of Uzbekistan, the Khokimiyat and Farmer Association of Samarkand Region organized a well-received “Farmer Fair” on March 6, 2014, at the Agrarian College in Samarkand. ICBA presented achievements on technological innovations in biosaline agriculture and food security in Central Asian countries. In her welcome remarks, Dr. Dilorom Fayzieva, member of the Deputy Group of the Ecological Movement of Uzbekistan in the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis (Parliament) of the Republic of Uzbekistan, mentioned that in recent years climate changes, natural disasters, and land and water quality deterioration have had a negative impact on food security in Uzbekistan. Based on two days of interactions with various stakeholders in Samarkand, representatives from the parliament of Uzbekistan suggested the creation of a National Concept and an institutional and policy framework for environmental management with special emphasis on marginal resources utilization, land/water and ecosystem management, and conservation. It was decided that a series of trainings should be organized in various districts of Uzbekistan where the experience of international organizations is critically needed.