What is desert agriculture?

Written by Ian Madalitso Saini

In simple terms, desert agriculture is the farming of crops well-suited for arid conditions, such as sorghum. In other words, it is the type of agriculture whereby crops that normally withstand water stress conditions are grown so as to withstand hot and less water growing conditions. Desert agriculture is becoming popular nowadays as climate change is hitting third-world countries hard. With climate change, areas that used to get enough rainfall for normal crop growth are experiencing less rainfall, and farmers have no choice but to start practicing desert agriculture so as to sustain high yields and manage to achieve food security. Furthermore, desert agriculture is more than just selecting crops that normally withstand harsh desert conditions. It is also the application of biotechnology and breeding procedures to modify crops so that they can still be grown in desert conditions despite being the crops suitable for high rainfall areas. It involves the application of initiatives aiming at improving crop production in low rainfall regime areas. A good example is an innovative approach called “Neo domestication,” which is being championed by King Abdallah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). It is a process based on rapid domestication and improvement of crops’ wild relatives and orphan crops with a high level of adaptation to marginal environments. In simple terms, desert agriculture is the process of manipulating the crops so that they get adapt to the harsh growing conditions but still give out the highest yield possible.

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