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Fri 1 Jun 2018 09:53 AM

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First halophytic vegetables being grown in the UAE

International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture says project aims to grow produce without using fresh water

First halophytic vegetables being grown in the UAE

Scientists at the International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) have successfully started growing halophytic (salt-loving) vegetables in UAE conditions, using reject brine from desalination units treated with fish effluents.

It is the first time that halophytic vegetables have been grown without using fresh water in the UAE, a statement said.

The idea behind the research is to save fresh water and introduce these vegetables into the local diet, eventually contributing towards sustainable future food security of the country, it added.

As a pilot study, the centre is currently growing six halophytic vegetables at its experimental station in Dubai.

The vegetables include Salsola soda (agretti); Crithmum maritimum (rock samphire); Beta maritima (sea beet); Aster tripolium (sea aster); Salicornia bigelovii (samphire); and Portulaca oleracea (common purslane).

Dr Dionysia Angeliki Lyra, a halophyte agronomist at ICBA, who leads the research said: “We are very happy to grow halophytic vegetables in the UAE conditions and the initial results are very promising.

"In addition to saving fresh water and utilizing reject brine for vegetable production in the country, our focus on halophytic vegetables is based on the scientific studies which demonstrate that these vegetables are very rich in antioxidants, fatty acids, vitamins and other vital elements essential for the human health.”

The overall goal of the project is to produce crops in degraded or barren lands with economic benefits for the local communities.

The target is to develop climate-resilient, biodiverse, affordable, easy-to-operate, nutrient-dense farming schemes that increase food and nutrition security in salt-affected areas, desert environments, marginal lands, while providing multifold incomes to farmers.

ICBA said it is also working with UAE-based chef Doxis Bekris to develop recipes using halophytic vegetables.

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