Climate change is affecting every aspect of our life. One of the areas most impacted by climate change will be how we grow our food in the future, which be marked by extreme temperatures and an acute scarcity of freshwater. the International Center of Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) is at the forefront in developing ‘superfoods’ adapted to high salinity and low fertile soil.
Dubai sands bang in the middle of the desert and farmers there have always contended with lack of freshwater, intense heat, and soil that lack basic nutrients. But the impact of climate change on temperatures has impacted every aspect of our life. And as the Earth gets warmer, how and when we get our food is also shifting.
The role of ICBA in growing and transplanting foods adapted to high salinity and extreme temperatures. this will hopefully expand food variety in this region.
Freshwater constitutes only 3% of the earth’s water and 2.5% of that is unavailable, trapped in polar ice caps, glaciers, soil, and atmosphere. So it is important to focus o alternative sources by utilizing low-quality water with high salinity for the production of food.
ICBA And Its Role In The Growth Of Superfood In Deserts
Desert farming techniques have been around the world for centuries, but most plants lack the sufficient nutrients necessary for an expanding population. The ICB, a non-profit, started in 1999 in the UAE.
Its mission is to identify crops that have high nutritional content and can be adapted to survive in life-threatening climatic conditions. Such crops can also thrive in water with high salinity and brine discharged from desalination projects.
Scientists from ICBA tested more than 1,200 types of quinoa. Five were found to be adapted to such extreme conditions and grew. This superfood is already a crop for farmers of 10 North Africa countries and the Middle East. The ICBA has now focused on the Central Asian rural communities.
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Salicornia is a salt-tolerant flowering plant found in beaches, salty marshes and lakes, and mangroves of North America and Europe. It is also known as sea asparagus or sea beans. It is edible both raw and cooked and is often blanched and used as an accompaniment for fish or as a topping for salads.
The ICBA has transported the plant to the deserts in the Middle East where it has thrived. Its versatility and adaptability have caused it to be called the ‘desert superhero.’ The plant is also being tried as biofuel.
The ICBA is at present producing 500 kilograms of Salicornia and 200 kilograms of quinoa for seeding and research. It has also tied up with a Dubai-based food company to develop food products based in Salicornia and make them more acceptable to consumers.
ICBA agronomist, Dionysia Angeliki Lyra believes that crops that show utilization of low-quality, saline water for food production can have a positive impact on the environment when used on a large scale.
ICBA And Getting Prepared For The Future
ICBA is leading a worldwide effort to find alternative food sources that will not have to depend on routine approaches for food production. There will be an explosion in food demand by 2050 with demands going up between 59% and 98%.
But the effects of climate change are being felt on a global scale, affecting food production and food security. Joshua Katz of McKinsey & Co. believes that alternative food sources will be necessary.
Maintaining food supplies at the present level of volume and nutritional level is a herculean task itself as several food sources have set to face depletion in stock. The oceans are turning barren while agricultural land has seen a dive in production from the overutilization of soil.
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And with the population set to spike by 2050, multiple systems of production will be needed to meet the additional demand for food.
Countries heavily dependent on imports to meet their food demand are depending on technology to meet their food demand. Smart greenhouses and vertical farms growing indoor are being developed on a large scale to cope up with this demand.
ICBA is an instance of how we can rely on technology to plan for food production. It is now devising ways to adapt its technology to sub-Saharan Africa and Central Asia and introduce crop diversification in regions that are affected by high salinity.