There is one service that can identify 18 different common disorders affecting tomato, capsicum, and cucumber
An app to detect crop disorders, and an e-platform to teach farmers innovative techniques, are some of the ways in which a local agency is using new technology to make agriculture more effective in the UAE.
The International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA), which has become one of the most important players in researching food security in the UAE, has been using technology to make services more readily available.
Dr.Tarifa AlZaabi, Director-General at ICBA explained how the app is helping farmers. “Called Dr. Nabat, the application created with the support of local partners in Egypt, Tunisia, and the UAE,” she said. “[It] is designed to aid smallholder farmers and extension specialists in spotting crop disorders at early stages, and thus minimising yield losses and improving incomes. It can identify 18 different common disorders affecting tomato, capsicum, and cucumber.”
According to Dr. Tarifa, an e-platform provides specialised coaching to farmers as well. “The platform currently features five courses, which were created with support from donors and partners, including the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi,” she said. “These courses include both advanced courses for professionals and specialists and intermediate ones for students and beginners in land management, crop diversification, genetics, climate change modeling and adaptation.”
Forefront of research
ICBA has been impacting the agriculture industry by conducting experiments on growing crops in the prevailing weather and soil conditions in the UAE. Last year, the agency had a surprise visit from the UAE President, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan himself.
“For more than two decades, our centre has been at the forefront of research and development in nature-based solutions that help to preserve soil and water resources and reduce the environmental footprint of agrifood systems,” said Dr. Tarifa. “We have implemented a number of initiatives to advance agricultural science, promote sustainable agriculture and environmental protection, transfer knowledge and technology, and develop individual and institutional capacities.”
One of the most important works of ICBA has been with the crop Salicornia, a salt-loving plant. Growing in salt water, the plant has a natural saltiness to it, meaning it can be used as an additive to different foods. Containing potassium, calcium and other nutrients in addition to sodium and chlorine, the plant yields salt of a better and more natural quality. In 2022 the centre was recognised with a special award of the Khalifa International Award for Date Palm and Agricultural Innovation and was featured during the Floriade Expo 2022 in the Netherlands for the work on Salicornia.
The work of ICBA has significantly contributed to the UAE’s journey during a very important year for the country. “The theme of the Year of Sustainability, which is Today for Tomorrow, is close to our mission,” said Dr. Tarifa. “In fact, our slogan is Agriculture for Tomorrow.”
The centre has a comprehensive plan to contribute to and raise awareness about national initiatives. “We are also working with government and other entities on a number of initiatives to promote sustainable practices in agriculture and inform the public about ways to minimise our environmental footprint,” she said.
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