Indian fungus to boost UAE farmland produce

An Indian fungus that helps turn arid soil into farmland could help UAE grow more of vegetables.

Dubai: An Indian fungus that helps turn arid
soil into farmland could help UAE grow more of its own fruit
and vegetables, a news report here has said.

According to the report, the New Delhi-based Energy and
Resources Institute (Teri), which runs a centre in Dubai, will
launch a pilot programme in partnership with UAE`s Higher
Colleges of Technology to fertilise arid land with the fungus,
called mycorrhiza.

It attaches itself to the roots of plants, helping them
absorb water and minerals much more efficiently.

The institute plans to set up demonstration sites with a
variety of soil conditions throughout UAE.

Teri has recently expanded a similar project in Qatar,
which began in 2007 and within 18 months had transformed 4,000
square metres of sandy and very salty soil into plantations of
decorative plants, animal forage and vegetables.

The fungus feeds on sugar, which it takes from the
plants` roots.

In return, it acts as a more extensive rooting system for
the plants, helping them survive heat and drought.

It also helps protect the roots from disease, `The
National` report said.

The fungus`s ability to absorb more nutrients from less
water should allow crops to grow with 60 per cent less water
than they currently require.

Projects such as this are likely to help the UAE reclaim
desert land.

Partial findings from a recent Abu Dhabi Soil Survey
showed that more than 200,000 hectares out of the emirate?s
5.7 million could support some form of agriculture. Currently,
77,000 hectares in the emirate are used in farming.


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