Coronavirus has forced mankind to change his course of life and take a different path by all means. Many businesses crumpled and every day comes with new struggles. One of the various problems faced by many consumer nations was the availability of food. Due to imposed airline bans and a sense of uncertainty, many exporting nations have restricted their amount of exported crops.
In order to reduce UAE’s reliance on imported food, a rice farming experiment was launched after leaders of UAE and South Korea agreed to develop smart farming technology during a summit in the UAE in 2018. Korea’s Rural Development Administration (RDA), the state-run agricultural research institute started to grow Asemi rice on a 1,890 m2 plot in the UAE’s Sharjah desert in November 2019.
Rice is a demanding crop to grow and it typically requires specific conditions and flooded paddies. But this joint project between UAE University scientists and South Korean experts are turning the dry deserts of Sharjah into a land capable of nurturing this global staple.
Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said the impressive results could change agriculture across the arid region. “The innovative venture is the first of its kind in the Middle East,” he said.
To counter the growing food security threat, local scientists are using the latest technology to grow 763 kilograms of rice in a 1,000 square meter plot of the desert.
“If successful on a large scale, this groundbreaking project has the potential to shape the future of agriculture as it can be replicated. We are also focusing on driving innovation and exploring agritech in growing the crops that are in high demand,” detailed Dr. Al Zeyoudi.
UAE’s Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MoCCAE) has announced this project has the potential to shape the future of agriculture not just in
Technique used in the rice cultivation
Seeds were selected after extensive testing and sowed in November last year and harvested in three stages between May 5 and May 30. The types of rice grown were the short-grained Asemi (Japonica), which is extensively cultivated and consumed in China, Japan, and Korea; and the long-grained FL478 (Indica) variety, more popularly known as basmati.
To facilitate the monitoring and recording of results, the plot was divided into three blocks. The first block was harvested on May 5, the second block on May 10, and the third block on May 30.
The pilot phase showed positive results, following a yield of 763-kg of rice per 1,000 square metres. The harvested rice will only be used commercially once tested to ensure compliance with standard specifications.
Future of the project
The Ambassador of the Republic to Korea to the UAE, Kwon Yongwoo, said: “The Korean Government and Embassy are delighted that the cooperation of the two countries in the agricultural area has seen the first tangible success, especially during this difficult situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Korea has a long experience and cutting-edge technologies in the field of agriculture and food security, which we are ready to share with the UAE,” he added.
The Korean ambassador also expressed the intention of the Korean Government to continue to work closely with MoCCAE on the second phase of the rice cultivation program, which will focus more intensively on water-saving technologies to ensure sustainability.
The impressive rice growing results at the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment’s Al Dhaid research centre have added hope for other agricultural innovations.
“We seek to make the most of our resources and find the crops and methods that are suitable for our desert climate,” said Dr Al Zeyoudi.
Other initiatives in the pipeline to encourage more self sufficiency include smart greenhouse projects, vertical farms that grow crops inside climate-controlled facilities and the control of date palm pests.