ABU DHABI // Farming authorities have announced an effort to cut the use of water for agriculture by up to 40 per cent.
The scheme, which is called Zera'atona (our agriculture), will apply to all 24,000 farms under the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority, with the 40 per cent target being set for 2013.
"What we're really hoping to achieve through the campaign is a sustainable agriculture," said Mohamed Jalal Al Reyaysa, the authority's communications director.
He said the campaign would encourage farmers to adopt state-of-the-art technologies in an effort to preserve Abu Dhabi's land and water, and promote local produce.
As many of the emirate's farms as possible will switch to greenhouses and hydroponic systems "because the amount of cultivable land is limited in the UAE", according to Mubarak Al Mansouri, the authority's agricultural director.
"We are looking to improve the quality of produce, agricultural technology, farming methods and reduce the use of land and water without the farmers having to pay for any of it," he added.
Water use will be measured on 200 farms across the emirate.
"We're really driven by the idea of a sustainable agriculture and it all lies in the hands of Abu Dhabi's agricultural practices," said Mr Al Mansouri.
He said the salinity of the irrigation water used was a key factor.
Already, water use has been cut by halting the cultivation of Rhodes grass, a crop that previously accounted for 70 per cent of the water used in Abu Dhabi's agriculture.
"Stopping the cultivation of Rhodes grass really helped us save a lot of water," said Khalifa Al Ali, the Farmers Services Centre's managing director.
The campaign aims to try out various methods of building and running greenhouses, as well as different techniques to control pests, including biological and mechanical, to "reduce the need for land and water".
"We are truly concerned with the environmental effects of our farming practices and the use of pesticides," said Mr Al Mansouri.
"And by 2014, 90 per cent of local produce will be up to par with international standards."
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