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Know How Israel Leads in Agriculture despite Underlying Challenges

Are you aware of the fact that nearly 50% of Israel land is available as desert and farming often depends on the prevailing weather conditions. Also water sources are also lacking and not more than 20% of the land area is naturally arable. Despite these challenges, Agriculture is a highly developed Industry in Israel. Israel has enhanced its Agricultural productivity as well as it Agribusiness potential through adoption of various leading agriculture technologies

Abhijeet Banerjee

Are you aware of the fact that nearly 50% of Israel land is available as desert and farming often depends on the prevailing weather conditions. Also, water sources are also lacking and not more than 20% of the land area is naturally arable. Despite these challenges, Agriculture is a highly developed Industry in Israel.  

Like other Industry, agriculture in Israel contributes significantly in shaping its economy. The country leads in exporting fresh produce and ranks number one in Agricultural technologies, irrespective of the fact that the geography of Israel is not that favoring for agricultural practices. Since Israel is a world leader in agricultural research and development, there has been significant enhancement of quantity (Production) and quality of the crops there. As a result there have been development of new seed and plant varieties, also several innovative techniques, like a soil conditioner substance (vermiculite) which, when mixed with local soils improves yield of the crops.

Israel has enhanced its Agricultural productivity as well as its Agribusiness potential through adoption of various leading agriculture technologies. Let us discuss these briefly.   

1. Drip Irrigation - A micro-irrigation system which is beneficial in conserving water and nutrients by allowing water to drip slowly to the roots of plants, either from above the soil surface or buried below the surface. Objective of this technology is to place water directly into the root zone and minimize evaporation.  Instead of releasing water through tiny holes easily blocked by tiny particles, they released water through larger and longer passageways by using friction to slow the force water inside a plastic emitter. It was developed in Israel by Simcha Blass and his son Yeshayahu. The first experimental system of this type was established in 1959 by Blass, who partnered later (1964) with Kibbutz Hatzerim to create an irrigation company called Netafim.  

2. Water Recycling - Water recycling is the process of treating waste water and reusing it. Recycling our water can offer substantial benefits to our society including: a) reduction of nutrient and contaminant loads into oceans and rivers; b) reducing demand and stress on freshwater resources such as the groundwater and rivers by providing alternative water supplies.

According to an article in The Tower Magazine, nearly 90 percent of the wastewater generated in Israel is reused thus making it the leading nation in water recycling/. Spain is the second largest nation for water reuse, which recycles 20 percent of its waste water. Super power like U.S. is still unable to recycling more than 1-2 percent of its wastewater as per reports. The water treated for reuse in Israel is predominantly used for agricultural irrigation. Roughly one tenth of waste water is used for environmental purposes, such as increasing volume of river flow or suppression of fire. Only 5 percent is discharged into the sea in the country. Israel has been able to survive drought and periods of water scarcity, through water conservation and reuse. This system has also been able to flourish and use reclaimed water as a vital point for creating new business ventures or economic opportunities.    

3. Intelligence - Israel has made breakthrough in adopting digital technologies which successfully adjust the ways that farmers treat crops and manage fields. As a result, ever-evolving digital agriculture is constantly helping in improving quality and quantities in Agricultural products. Examples are Satellite imagery, drone and other aerial imagery etc. The use of Drone technology has the potential to provide a sustainable solution in context of enhancing the productivity as well as efficiency of the Agriculture sector. A drone, in technological terms, is an unmanned aircraft. Essentially, a drone is a flying robot that can be remotely controlled or fly autonomously through software-controlled flight plans in their embedded systems, working in conjunction with onboard sensors and GPS.

4. Bio Pesticides - The damage control through chemical sprays in 95% of the crops. However, Israeli scientists are appreciably reducing chemical control measures by pursuing less harmful agricultural control methods or focusing on bio control measures. Biological control means controlling crop damage risk by use of Bio-pesticides. Example - Isolation and synthesis of pheromones. Pheromones are substances secreted by insects to communicate a variety of social messages, including trail marking, battle orders, sexual conditions etc. Fertile female insects often secrete pheromones that are carried by the wind, attracting males downstream. Initially, natural pheromones were used to trap males. Natural pheromones are extracted from females. Later it involved a tedious process which monitored the response of male antennae, and enabled scientists to chemically produce the compounds.  

5. Bio fertilizers - It involves microbial inoculants, collectively termed bio-fertilizers, used to improve nutrition and yields of grain, legume, oil, tuber, and other crops. A vast number of commercial bio-fertilizers are available in different countries.    

6. Robotics - On the back of labor shortage and increasing need to feed the large population around the globe, agriculture robots have entered into the picture. Interestingly, they are becoming a common yet useful assistant of farmers in various different works. It is one of the milestone achievements in agricultural technology, involving robots picking fruits from tall trees or from plantations in those regions where human picking is very tough or nearly impossible.  Another use is robots performing specific tasks like spraying, monitoring or yield assessing) which operates inside greenhouses where pepper is grown. As the robot moves inside the greenhouse, between its rows it collects diverse data about the crop, without making any physical contact with the plants.   

7. Sensors - This is another innovative technology where a robot equipped with a SONAR sensor is used in an experiment conducted in the fields of any research institute. This implies that the use of this technology is advantageous for growers to acquire a close-to-real estimation of the crop's yield from a given plot, irrespective of whether the plot is in a greenhouse or an open field. Another example is involving robotic arms supporting a high-resolution, hyper spectral camera, which can detect early signs of leaf diseases (due to viral or fungal infections) in crops grown in greenhouses. Robotic sensors are used to estimate a robot's condition and environment. These signals are passed to a controller to enable appropriate behavior.

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