Honiara : 4 February 2018
Letter to the Editors, Solomon Star and Island Sun newspapers.
TRANSFORMING SAND INTO FERTILE SOIL
Prompted by reading of the recent visit to the Solomon Islands by the non-resident Israeli Ambassador I remembered reading how in Israel parts of the Negev Desert had been transformed from sand into productive farmland.
I wanted to find out more and came across this information in a magazine called Israel Tourist from which I quote.
“Desert agriculture in Israel is one of the country’s greatest successes, and something at which Israel leads the world. The Negev Desert which covers over 60% of the country has actually shrunk in size over the past century as agricultural activity has turned sand into green fields, the opposite to the desertification trend which much of the rest of the world is battling to prevent. Even in the depths of Israel’s Negev Desert are gems of agriculture amid the harsh, dry conditions, and relatively mineral-deprived sandy soil.”
Israeli company, “Netafim, invented modern drip irrigation technology in the 1960’s. This allowed the precious and scarce water resources of the desert to be used at extreme limits to grow crops. Among the most noteworthy crops grown in the Israeli desert are cherry tomatoes – the modern strain which are found in grocery stores around the world was developed in the Negev. The cherry tomatoes grown in the Negev are 2-3 times sweeter than those found elsewhere due to the amount of water used, and the unique qualities of minerals found in the water. Today, agriculturalists are developing even newer strains of the tomato to increase yields further (already the Negev grows 3-4 times greater yields of tomatoes compared to elsewhere in the world).”
Using drip irrigation methods in the Solomon Islands to convert sand into soil would possibly not be practical and I turned to new developments in China where alternative methods are reported to have achieved great success.
In an article written by Ryan General, entitled “Chinese Scientists Develop Revolutionary Paste that Transforms Desert into Fertile Farmland.”
I came across this interesting report (quote)
“China has reportedly developed a technology that is able to transform desert lands into arable soil that could grow crops and natural vegetation.
“According to CTGN, Chinese scientists have achieved success in growing crops in areas with less than ideal conditions caused by lack of rain and extremely hot temperatures.
“The huge breakthrough was recently presented at the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in September2015 in the Chinese desert city of Ordos, where over 100 countries in attendance committed to setting national timelines to stop desertification by 2030.
“The technology behind the Chinese innovation was developed by researchers at Chongqing Jiaotong University. The scientists developed a paste made of a substance found in plant cell walls that, when mixed with sand, is able to retain water, nutrients, and air.
“One particular location where the plants have been thriving is in a desert in North China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
“According to our calculation, there are over 70 kinds of crops growing here. Manyare notplanted by us but they just grow themselves,” Chongqing Jiaotong University Associate Professor Zhao Chaohua was quoted as saying.
“Over the course of six months, over 200 hectares of sand is being turned into plantations yielding corn, tomatoes, sorghum, and sunflowers. A reforestation project is also currently in the works, which is set to reforest 50% of degraded desert land in three years.”
“The costs of artificial materials and machines for transforming sand into soil is lower compared with controlled environmental agriculture and reclamation,” Chongqing Jiaotong University professor Yang Qingguo said.
“Researchers are looking into expanding their project this fall, with a plan to transform another 200 hectares of desert. In the next few years, the scientists are confident that they can turn over 13,000 hectares more into fertile ground.
“Chinese forestry officials have stated that the area of desertified land in the country has so far been dropping by an annual average of more than 2,400 square kilometers.”
Technological advances in desertified land might help the Solomon Islands especially in advancing re-growth in parts of the country where logging over the years has reduced the ground to sand-like conditions.
I believe the Government of Israel could well be instrumental in aiding the Solomon Islands in such work and, perhaps, the Taiwanese Government too.