Soilless crop technology reduces water use for irrigation by 80%

The technology of hydroponic crops (above-ground crops), adopted within the framework of the Tunisian-Italian cooperation project INTESA, makes it possible to reduce the use of water for irrigation by 80%, compared to traditional agriculture and 90% the use of chemical fertilizers, according to the adviser to the president of UTAP and coordinator of the project, Bayrem Hamada.

During an international conference on “The challenges of sustainable agriculture in the Mediterranean through the INTESA project” held Thursday, November 3, 2022 in Tunis, Hamada indicated that the INTESA project (Innovation in technologies to support sustainable development of agro-industry), financed by the European Union, with an envelope of 700 thousand dinars, will enable the State to limit the cost of agricultural inputs such as fertilizers, to strengthen agricultural production and to promote the production of agricultural products without heavy metals.

Support alternative practices

This project also aims to support alternative practices with the aim of promoting sustainable and innovative agriculture in the face of significant population growth in Tunisia and around the world, changing consumption needs and the scarcity of water resources. because of climate change.

Hamada underlined the importance of a change in the mentality of the Tunisian farmer who must understand the advantages of hydroponic crops, especially in the face of the difficulties encountered by traditional crops and their high exposure to soil-borne diseases and the scarcity of water and fertilizers.

The official also called on the State to recognize these agricultural practices, to mobilize bank financing lines and to grant the necessary support to farmers specializing in this type of crop.

Generalize soilless crops

For his part, the director of the Regional Union of Agriculture and Fisheries of Nabeul and expert in hydroponics, Slim Zouari, stressed the need to adopt soilless crops in urban areas and not only in agricultural areas, so that the citizen can cover part of his leafy vegetable and fruit needs, using small areas.

He said that traditional crops use 400 kg of water to produce one kg of vegetables, while soilless crops only use 20% of this amount of water to produce the same amount of vegetables, which favors adaptation to climate change.

A ton of basil monthly on an area of ​​only 500 m2

For his part, Mohamed Amine Mechichi, a farmer specializing in soilless crops in Soliman (Nabeul), said that this technique allows the plant to easily draw its water needs, without degrading the soil thanks to the limitation of the use of machines. farms to plow and sow the land as well as the use of pesticides.

Mechichi, who launched his project in 2019, said that using soilless cultivation allows him to produce one ton of basil monthly on an area of ​​no more than 500 m2, while traditional cultivation requires land of at least least one hectare to produce the same amount of basil. And to add that the monthly production of basil consumes only 10 m3 of water/month, ie a monthly cost of 2 dinars.

He called for the equipment necessary for hydroponic crops (mainly plastic equipment) to be included in the list of agricultural equipment to limit their import costs and remove the customs and financial obstacles faced by farmers specializing in these crops.

Various experiences in Tunisia and Italy

As part of the INTESA project, which will continue until June 2023, several experiments in the production of tomatoes and soil-less leafy vegetables have been carried out in southern Italy and Tunisia, including a pilot project in the governorate of Manouba.

This project also plans, in the coming period, training sessions for the benefit of farmers, students of agricultural schools and young entrepreneurs as well as living laboratory initiatives in Tunis and Sfax and market studies for this type of cultures.

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