Brother Thomas writes in Elpis Israel that in returning to the Land, the Jews “will emigrate thither as agriculturists and traders”.1 When Jews began to settle in Palestine in the late nineteenth century, they created agricultural settlements which were later to lay the foundation of the Jewish state.2 Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has been at the forefront of innovation in agriculture, by developing technologies that greatly improve farming efficiency.3

Israeli researchers are continuously working on technical solutions aimed at improving farming methods and crop quality. Efficient use of water and fertiliser, the development of crops that resist disease and drought, as well as analysis of agricultural quality and quantity in farming production.

All around the world, farmers in arid areas are experiencing the effects of a hotter, drier climate. Scarecity of water, because of the drying up of groundwater wells and the failure of other water sources, are most acute for farmers in the poor and developing countries of Asia and Africa.

But help is being provided by Tel Aviv University’s Nitsan Sustainable Development Lab directed by Ram Fishman. He leads a team that assesses problems with agriculture, water and energy in rural Asia and Africa, and finds Israeli technologies to solve them. “Many farmers around the world look to Israel as a model of how to manage and flourish in conditions of water scarcity and a hotter, drier climate,” says Fishman, an expert on smallholder farming and climate change.

It is not only developing countries that are looking to Israel for help with changing conditions. Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research are partnering with organisations in the United States on projects related to climate change.

But it is in developing countries which lack the resources to buy and apply technological solutions that there is potential to make the greatest difference. Israel is seen as the source of solutions by farmers in Africa and Asia, and Fishman’s laboratory attempts to be a bridge between smallholder farms and Israeli innovation.

Israel is well known for the development and application of precision drip irrigation, which has become critical for farmers facing a drier, hotter world. But while many farmers in developing countries have adopted drip irrigation, the technology is not always accessible or affordable for small subsistence farmers.

Generally, drip irrigation is most effectively used for vegetables and fruits, but in developing countries field crops like rice, wheat and maize are the most frequently grown. To meet this need, Israeli irrigation company Netafim has developed drip irrigation systems for rice growers, which were piloted in California in 2016 and more recently in India.

Netafim, says that rice grown with drip irrigation not only produces higher yields than conventional paddy rice, but also uses 70 percent less water. It also provides other benefits such as the elimination of methane emissions and a ninety percent reduction in arsenic uptake.

Around the world there is also a lot of concern about how fruit orchards will cope with hotter, drier conditions. Specialist in dryland forestry, Tamir Klein, principal investigator at the Weizmann Institute of Science’s Tree Lab, is constantly working to find solutions to hotter summers and drought. Because it is one of the most arid places on Earth, Klein and his team are working in Israel’s Negev Desert and Yatir Forest to determine the mechanisms that enable trees to survive the harsh conditions there.

Wild native almond trees, for example, have been found flourishing in a dry riverbed near Mount Ramon in the Negev. Klein’s team has discovered how these trees can tolerate drought much better than almond trees grown commercially. The team is investigating the use of the Ramon almond as a rootstock for almond trees that will tolerate the harsher conditions of the future.

Israel’s agricultural technologies are having a significant impact on sustainable agriculture around the world, helping farmers manage limited water resources and a hotter, drier climate. Yet God promises greater agricultural quality and quantity on the Earth in the kingdom age: “Behold, the days come, saith Yahweh, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed” (Amos 9:13). Such are the blessings that will flow to all people when the Kingdom of God is established with the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.

References

  1. John Thomas, Elpis Israel, 14th ed. revised, The Christadelphian, 1958, p. 441.
  2. Yossi Katz, “Agricultural Settlements in Palestine, 1882-1914”, Jewish Social Studies, v. 50, no. 1/2 (Winter, 1988–Spring, 1992), p. 63, online at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/4467407?read-now=1&refreqid=excelsior%3Af989ebafe7319cfc851b4ed20a21ba39&seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
  3. Chief source for this article: Abigail Klein Leichman, “Why the future of agriculture lies in Israel’s desert”, Israel 21c, March 2, 2020, online at: https://www.israel21c.org/why-the-future-of-agriculture-lies-in-israels-desert/