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Desert Farming Experiment Yields Good Initial Results

Unknown Lamer posted about 5 months ago | from the preparing-for-2045 dept.

Earth 178

Taco Cowboy writes "For the past year or so, a tiny scale farming experiment in has been carried out in the desert field of Qatar, using only sunlight and seawater. From the article: 'A pilot plant built by the Sahara Forest Project (SFP) produced 75 kilograms of vegetables per square meter in three crops annually (or 25 kilograms per square meter, per crop)' If the yield level can be maintained, a farm of the size of 60 hectares would be enough to supply the nation of Qatar with all the cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, and egglants that it needs. 'The project will proceed to the next stage with an expansion to 20 hectares, to test its viability into commercial operation.'"

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178 comments

Why those vegetables? (3, Interesting)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 5 months ago | (#45398499)

Why were those vegetables chosen instead of others? Why not radishes, etc?

Re:Why those vegetables? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45398537)

I'm taking a swag here but alot of middle eastern/mediteranian food uses those things in abundance

Re:Why those vegetables? (2)

FlyHelicopters (1540845) | about 5 months ago | (#45398541)

What is wrong with those choices? Frankly, they sound good to me...

Re:Why those vegetables? (1)

xelah (176252) | about 5 months ago | (#45399183)

They're not exactly high calorie. Perfectly reasonable choices in terms of growing nice food ('value creation' as they put it), though I can't help wondering if they'll get the mother of all red spider mite infestations. Arab countries have bought huge amounts of African farmland in attempt to gain some food security, and if you assume it's for that purpose instead then you might have expected different choices. Still not radishes, though.

Re:Why those vegetables? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45399811)

When you are setting up a new industry you go with high profit, then someday when the business model is proven out and streamlined you can do something that is much lower profit.

As it is if they want high calorie they could buy a load of grain from the US for 1/100 the price they could grow in the desert. Vegtables on the other hand don't ship as easily as grain, so growing them locally would make more sense as customers pay a premium for the higher quality.

Re:Why those vegetables? (5, Informative)

Frobnicator (565869) | about 5 months ago | (#45398567)

Why were those vegetables chosen instead of others? Why not radishes, etc?

Probably because all of those vegetables can be grown in a similar climate as each other, all of them have very similar growing techniques where the plant can be placed in a wire cage or mesh that supports vertical growth.

Each of those plants have broad leaves, can be cultivated to thrive in lower water, and can be cultivated to require a relatively small footprint.

When you are going to grow a bunch of water-loving plants in the desert, you are going to want tall self-shading structures. If you look at their greenhouses in the article you can see that vertical space is available but horizontal space is a premium.

I happen to live in a desert and have grown three of those four plants for decades. They grow well together.

Re: Why those vegetables? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45399167)

They're growing vegetables in wire cages? That's so cruel! I only eat free range vegetables.

Re: Why those vegetables? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45399367)

I only eat free range vegetables.

What else would you do with free range vegetables?

Re: Why those vegetables? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45399779)

What else would you do with free range vegetables?

A hole in a pumpkin feels mighty nice.

Re: Why those vegetables? (3, Funny)

brianerst (549609) | about 5 months ago | (#45400063)

That's why I think it's far more ethical to be a carnivore - I only eat things that have a chance to run away.

(And this is Slashdot, so a reply of "Including your girlfriend?" doesn't apply...)

Re:Why those vegetables? (3, Insightful)

upuv (1201447) | about 5 months ago | (#45398569)

It has to be commercially viable. So choose stuff people want.

This is about growing food people will consume. If in the same shoes I would choose the same crops. Not because they are the most efficient, not because they are the best for you. But because it's the income that will allow the plant to continue to grow food. Local food.

And it's that last two words that matter most. Local food. As in the amount of oil used to transport the food from a far off land is drastically reduced.

Even if the crops are not the best source of nutrition they are still better for you in the long run. Simply because the cost in carbon and energy is so low.

And to top it off this is only the start. In the future when the tech becomes cheaper and easier to implement the market is easier for people like your self to grow a radish or 6.

Re:Why those vegetables? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45398677)

Actually, they also discuss fodder (animal feed), so it is not just about food people want. At least not directly.

I assume one of the reasons is that these vegetables are relatively pricey to ship, that is to say they're cheap to grow in comparison to shipping them.

Re:Why those vegetables? (2)

j-beda (85386) | about 5 months ago | (#45399453)

Local food.

And it's that last two words that matter most. Local food. As in the amount of oil used to transport the food from a far off land is drastically reduced.

Even if the crops are not the best source of nutrition they are still better for you in the long run. Simply because the cost in carbon and energy is so low.

And to top it off this is only the start. In the future when the tech becomes cheaper and easier to implement the market is easier for people like your self to grow a radish or 6.

But something like 86% or more of the energy/carbon budget for food production is at the point of production. Only 5% in some studies is used for transportation. Hey, every bit helps, but transportation costs (energy and dollars) are not particularly high for most foods.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_miles#Energy_used_in_production_as_well_as_transport [wikipedia.org]

With that said, these green houses are well situated to minimize heating costs (as compared to hothouses in the UK for example) and I would think that a greenhouse should be able to be more efficient in fertilizer use than regular farm fields. With solar power supplying desalination needs, they could be dramatically lower in CO2 than the alternatives.

Re:Why those vegetables? (1)

KritonK (949258) | about 5 months ago | (#45398659)

Probably because with these vegetables they will be in Mediterranean diet heaven. All they need is olive oil, but olive trees take time to grow. Olive trees would probably thrive in the hot climate, so they, too, could be included in the project in the long term.

According to the TFA they also produced barley (Greek salad with barley rusks—yum!) and salad rocket (for those who prefer their salad green instead of Greek).

Re:Why those vegetables? (1)

Fallso (2997549) | about 5 months ago | (#45398915)

Why were those vegetables chosen instead of others? Why not radishes, etc?

Are you mad? Radishes? You need a good frost to grow radishes!

Re:Why those vegetables? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45399337)

Of course they should stick with things that grow good in the heat, like watermelons and chickens.

Re:Why those vegetables? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45399413)

Because they are indeterminate vines that you can crop continously for 18 months. They all also deal with heat well.

Re:Why those vegetables? (1)

txoutback (1886680) | about 5 months ago | (#45399931)

Why were those vegetables chosen instead of others? Why not radishes, etc?

A plant's heat tolerance is surely a factor, too.

Economics (4, Interesting)

captainpanic (1173915) | about 5 months ago | (#45398547)

I am very curious about the economics of this type of farming. (Note, I am not necessarily a skeptic). The cost of the water is obviously a driver to make sure the maximum amount of water is recycled. I wonder if they use hydroponics?

Greenhouses are used at large scale elsewhere with a lot of success. The Netherlands has a large area of greenhouses to produce tomatoes and peppers (and a lot more). There, the water is not a bottleneck, but sunlight is. So, lamps are used. I guess that is just as costly, showing that the economics of a greenhouse are not necessarily a problem.

Re:Economics (-1, Troll)

durrr (1316311) | about 5 months ago | (#45398593)

There's desert farming concepts that use evaporation of seawater and condensation to provide freshwater to plants for no huge extra water cost.

But clearly that have to be impossible because we're supposed to starve from overpopulation and be generally miserable because that's how the environmentalists want it.

Re:Economics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45398729)

"be generally miserable because that's how the environmentalists want it."

You are a pitiful little man if you think that.

Re:Economics (4, Informative)

FriendlyLurker (50431) | about 5 months ago | (#45398763)

"We" already are starving and overpopulated** [worldhunger.org]. This research project is sponsored by companies operating in a very rich country - has potential to alleviate starvation and in the third world, but it is unlikely that will happen in our lifetimes. The evidence so far strongly suggests that we now live in a "winner-take-all" world economy [slate.com], where technological advances do not filter down and only serve to deepen the inequality both within a countries population and between countries [wikipedia.org]. Your stand on the environment one way or the other has nothing to do with that...

** in some areas

Re:Economics (3, Interesting)

divec (48748) | about 5 months ago | (#45399041)

My father remembers sending food parcels in the 1970s from the UK to relatives in mainland China. Now, starvation is almost unknown there. Yet, China was a more equal society in the 1970s -- virtually everyone was extremely poor.

Re:Economics (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45399045)

Fact. Supposition. One guy's theory. Supposition.

The BBC just ran a piece [bbc.co.uk] on how population growth is slowing, global inequality has been reduced from a stark binary proposition to a continuum, and rates of global literacy are skyrocketing, just for a bit of contrast there.

Re:Economics (2)

FriendlyLurker (50431) | about 5 months ago | (#45399357)

Some cherry picking going in that BBC article. Here is a better link [wordpress.com]. Here is the data [gapminder.org].

Conclusions

The problems of extreme poverty and population growth (may well) have been solved.
Climate change is still a massive problem (which we must therefore try to solve).
Excessive per-capita resource consumption in rich countries must now be reduced.

Re:Economics (2)

reboot246 (623534) | about 5 months ago | (#45399493)

"Excessive per-capita resource consumption in rich countries must now be reduced."

And that is where the "making us miserable" comes in. Try to deny it now.

Re:Economics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45399663)

And that is where the "making us miserable" comes in. Try to deny it now.

Only because the reductions being made are forced on those that can least afford to do it... (i.e. the disenfranchised poor).

Re:Economics (1)

Quila (201335) | about 5 months ago | (#45399863)

I guess the excessive per-capita economic output in rich countries can be correspondingly reduced?

Re:Economics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45399545)

"We" already are starving and overpopulated** [worldhunger.org].

no, even your link says otherwise, we produce more food than we need, and we are able to produce much much more than we need (by some estimates we could easily feed 100 billion people), only problem is some people don't have money to buy it, that is why they are hungry, and not our inability to provide food for them.

as for overpopulation, i presume you are talking about planet surface area available, but you forget that huge percentage of people living in cities uses just a tiny amount of planet area, we can always build more cities if we need more space, not everyone has to live in villages

Re:Economics (1)

FriendlyLurker (50431) | about 5 months ago | (#45399633)

if you have a starving and overpopulated population **IN SOME AREAS** - as the link I gave shows we defiantly do - then just because other (richer) areas overproduce food that goes to waste does not change the fact that some areas are starving due to overpopulation. Fix the distribution/tech gap problem to solve this inequality then yes we would not have any starving/overpopulated areas anymore.

Re:Economics (4, Interesting)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 5 months ago | (#45398685)

The arab countries never really worried about energy efficiency in the past. The problem there is every drop of drinking water is effectively sourced from desalination. The town water in Qatar tastes absolutely crap and even the hotels typically provide 2L bottled water bottles in the rooms (can't wait to hear the complains from the upcoming world cup).

This creates a very interesting problem for farming in the desert which looks absolutely fascinating on Google Maps [goo.gl]

Check out the green irrigation circles dotted all over the place.

Compared to that this is almost more of a traditional farming method.

Re:Economics (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45398711)

Actually, the Dutch greenhouses exist mainly to capture heat, not sunlight. They're still burning quite a bit of natural gas to heat them. (Side benefit: the CO2 can be dumped in the greenhouse itself, to improve production). But the controlled environment leads to high quality vegetables - few pests can get in, weather isn't a major influence, etc - which means you can sell at a premium.

Heat capture will be a bit bigger issue in these desert greenhouses. I'm surprised how low they are. I'd expected them to build higher, have the heat rise, and evaporate sea water there.

Re:Economics (1)

captainpanic (1173915) | about 5 months ago | (#45398723)

Good point. The glass structure is to capture heat and contain the CO2. Still, the lamps are a major cost - but admittedly only would require a lamppost, and not an entire greenhouse.

Re:Economics (1)

q.kontinuum (676242) | about 5 months ago | (#45398869)

Dutch greenhouses were the first in the world to create the fourth aggregate state of Water. (No, not superfluid, plasma - talking about the tomatos :-))

Re:Economics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45399655)

Dutch tomatos taste either like piss or water here in Germany. You generall don't buy Dutch tomatoes if you have a clue.

Re:Economics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45399109)

Probably will turn out that this type of farming can supply Qatar with all the $50 cucumbers it needs, which it turns out is not very many,

Re:Economics (1)

clickety6 (141178) | about 5 months ago | (#45399161)

The Netherlands has a large area of greenhouses to produce tomatoes and peppers (and a lot more).

The trouble with greenhouse-grown produce from the Netherlands is that the taste of the vegetables are a pale imitation of what they should taste like.For instance, Dutch tomatoes are watery and bland compared to garden grown tomatoes. Maybe it's because they are picked too green so locally growing could help?

Re:Economics (1)

Vintermann (400722) | about 5 months ago | (#45399553)

Yes, this is a classic investor trap, which has been covered before on Slashdot [slashdot.org]. I seem to recall another story about seawaterfarms dot com on slashdot, but I can't find it. Anyway, you can see that page in the Wayback Machine and see how it didn't exactly go anywhere.

The big rusting tank they talked about that supposedly gave valuable micronutrients to the plant, maybe says something about the seriousness of the project.

I've been toying with Solar desal for awhile. (4, Interesting)

upuv (1201447) | about 5 months ago | (#45398613)

It's really good to see some one follow through on this. This is excellent.

I've been toying and drawing up plans for very low maintenance solar desal for years. All the same basic components as this. But they have taken a few steps further than I was thinking. I had not worked in humid air as a means of watering plants. It really solves a lot of issues with condensing the water.

Problems like biomass build ups and the effort to clean it. Now that effort is productive as it is harvesting food not just cleaning sludge off the walls.

I really like it.

I had wind to pump salt and fresh water up hill. So that I would have a reserve of each at all times. That way wind could be used to build kinetic energy and store it as raise water mass. Salt water of course to feed the evaporators and to flush waste back out to sea. Fresh for obvious uses.

Something I have struggled with is a solar tracker that would allow a mirror to stayed focused on a water pipe to heat it to near steam to accelerate the evaporation. Something that does not actually require elctro-mechanical input.

Re:I've been toying with Solar desal for awhile. (4, Informative)

c0lo (1497653) | about 5 months ago | (#45398885)

Something I have struggled with is a solar tracker that would allow a mirror to stayed focused on a water pipe to heat it to near steam to accelerate the evaporation. Something that does not actually require elctro-mechanical input.

Have you considered a solar trough [wikipedia.org]?
You can get the sun's elevation [sunearthtools.com] and adjust the angle of your trough once every 3-4 days; after all, your pipe is not going to be a hit-or-miss-thread so doesn't need to stay exactly in the parabola focus.

Re:I've been toying with Solar desal for awhile. (4, Interesting)

upuv (1201447) | about 5 months ago | (#45399185)

I have considered the trough. But there is so much lost solar radiation this way if you don't have some tracking in place.

Basically I get more solar heat transfer if I just have a glass cover over a shallow pond that is painted black. I just don't get the temperature high enough to create a more efficient evaporation. It's just ends up being slower at a lower temp. Which then results in more biomass growth. I'd like to have close to boiling to hinder algae and such in the solar collector system.

So I'm stuck with a lot of labour with either method. However the construction costs are much lower with the black pond method.

I have been tossing around some ideas on how to automatically adjust the angle using struts that expand and contract with heat. Just need to find the right balance of expansion and contraction I hope to cause the system to angle itself as the sun passes overhead. My current thinking is something like a shock absorber filled with gas. A gas shock could cause contraction or expansion of a joint when cooled. So somehow tying the heated sea water into the system to control it's own angle.

Re:I've been toying with Solar desal for awhile. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45399309)

I have considered the trough. But there is so much lost solar radiation this way if you don't have some tracking in place.

Why the loses? After all, the trajectory of the sun though the sky is still very close the a plane: one just need to keep the pipe and the through axis in this plane.

Re:I've been toying with Solar desal for awhile. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45399565)

Zomeworks Corporation have a mechanism - used for solar panels - that does what you are looking for: for a price !

The mechanism uses a completely passive system based on Freon-22.

Patent description: http://www.freepatentsonline.com/4476854.html

Re:I've been toying with Solar desal for awhile. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45399207)

http://www.leonics.com/system/solar_thermal/solar_water_heating_system/solar_water_heating_system_en.php

You don't actaully need the pump if the tank is in the right place (above or below I forget)

Re:I've been toying with Solar desal for awhile. (1)

upuv (1201447) | about 5 months ago | (#45399385)

Not hot enough. Basically the same as my black pool.

But thanks for another site to for research.

Re:I've been toying with Solar desal for awhile. (4, Interesting)

Coppit (2441) | about 5 months ago | (#45399505)

I had some kids in a class I was teaching invent an umbrella that used a closed system of two connected canisters, one on each end. The liquid inside (I forget which) was chosen so that when heated it became *more* dense, causing the sun-ward side to be heavier, turning the umbrella toward the sun. It seems that sort of passive system is possible, if you wanted to go down the invention road. :)

By-products (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | about 5 months ago | (#45399511)

I've never understood what happens to the salt (and a none-too-pure salt at that) from large-scale desalinization processes.

Let me guess: it's either dumped back in the sea or left as a slurry and pumped underground as they do in the oil patch.

Not just "sunlight and seawater" (2)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 5 months ago | (#45398647)

The article doesn't really talk about the plant culture at all - "sunlight and seawater" is what they're using to maintain a favorable climate for the plants in the greenhouses.

It's still pretty cool tech, though.

Re:Not just "sunlight and seawater" (1)

fatphil (181876) | about 5 months ago | (#45399473)

As the study's being run by fertilizer companies, I'm presuming there are some chemicals involved too.

Good, we'll need it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45398661)

What with the ethanol-driven corn bonanza polluting the watershed and destroying millions of acres of farm and conservation land in the Mid-west just so AgriBiz can make more money, we're going to need replacement farm land and fresh water from somewhere.

Maybe the technology developed in Qatar can be deployed in, say, California since the Sierra Nevada watershed is already over-stressed.

That yield seems very high. (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45398731)

I work in agricultural research (cropping) and I'm a bit curious about those yields. Working on a single crop, that's 250 ton/hectare. For most crops in heavy clay soils the best you can hope to achieve is 8 - 12 (maybe 15 if you're *really* lucky). Now again, that's for crops, not vegetables, but I find it hard to believe that vegetables could yield over 20 times as much. Is this right? Is the weight mostly water? Are they able to grow year round with all the heat? I still find it hard to believe as even if you could get 5 harvests a year (and I'd be surprised if they got more than 3) that's still 50t/ha/harvest.

Re:That yield seems very high. (1)

3.5 stripes (578410) | about 5 months ago | (#45399057)

They got three crops, they have tons of sunlight, and using moist air to keep the plants hydrated is a great idea (especially since plants under intense sunlight tend to keep their stomata wide open), they are saying the yields are equivalent to those in europe.

Re:That yield seems very high. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45399497)

more than that, the desert dust is mostly 10,000 years of powdered camel shit. I mean, literally, the ubiquitous dust appears to be a millenia of powdered camel shit. When it rains, you can tell.

Re:That yield seems very high. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45399451)

The vines of these crops are indeterminate, and will flower and produce as long as you take care of them. 12 or 18 months is the typical cycle though. They go though and harvest every day. You can't have indeterminate grains as harvest would be a nightmare. And yes all of thos crops are something like 85-90% water.

Re:That yield seems very high. (1)

argStyopa (232550) | about 5 months ago | (#45399549)

Agreed. As a farmer by descent (family's occupation, not mine) that number seems unreasonably high.

Even if that yield is accurate, my next concern would be the sustainability - the amount of nitrogen you'd have to add to the soil to sustain that would be incredible but I guess runoff's not an issue if everything's being held in a closed system.

Just seems very "something for nothing" to me.

Re:That yield seems very high. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45399773)

Vegtables like tomatoes in greenhouses can be very productive. Here in the Netherlands, they get 42 kg/m2 per year, which is 420 metric tonne per hectare. This is pretty advanced stuff though, In Almeria, Spain, the other big Greenhouse concentration in Europe they get about 10-12 kg/m2, a lot less.

Source:

http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/cv284

Re:That yield seems very high. (2)

jabuzz (182671) | about 5 months ago | (#45399883)

A little Googling shows that the Tylka F1 tomatoe variety does 155 to 180 tonnes per hectare (70 - 80 tons per acre). With a harvesting period of 4-6 months with maturity 75 days after planting. So only need two crops a year to get a 250 ton per hectare yield which makes it look perfectly feasible to me. If you really work in agricultural research you need to sack yourself!

http://www.syngenta.com/country/ke/en/products/Vegetable%20Seeds/Pages/Tomatoes.aspx [syngenta.com]

Arable Soil (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45398735)

This tech seems to only addresses the issues of water and heat, not arable soil. It doesn't say either way explicitly, but the fact it was funded by fertilizer companies leads me to believe as much. So this could mitigate some of the impacts of climate change in costal drought-stricken regions, but won't address the nitrogen crisis.

Does anyone know how arable deserts in the middle east or africa are if they were irrigated? Are they mostly untapped reserve of nutrients, or a bunch of sand?

Re:Arable Soil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45399483)

Nitrogen can be produces in unlimited supply, it just takes a shit-ton of energy to do so.

Sometimes you find desert areas with decent soild, but the issue is finding water of hight enough quality as not to salinate the land.

fertilizer? (4, Insightful)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | about 5 months ago | (#45398779)

How will they fertilize this? Are they using desert ground, or are they just using the location and using fertile ground or hydroponics? I know that Australia's attempt to irrigate desert ground to grow crops turned whole regions so saline that even desert plants won't grow there anymore.

Re:fertilizer? (-1, Flamebait)

nospam007 (722110) | about 5 months ago | (#45398849)

"How will they fertilize this? Are they using desert ground, or are they just using the location and using fertile ground or hydroponics?"

We'll never know until you read TFA and tell us.

One thing we know without RTFA it that, since they use seawater, you don't have to salt the vegetables before eating them.

Re:fertilizer? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45398895)

Yes it seems like a serious missing detail.
They could use solar energy to extract nitrogen from the atmosphere.
Perhaps there are microorganisms in sea water.

Salinity problems in Australia are caused by large amounts of salt in the ground coming to the surface due to land clearing and irrigation, but not irrigation on its own.

Re:fertilizer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45399087)

Do you think the greenhouse plants in the Netherlands grow in soil? That's how it started, but for decades now all those plants grow on substrate. All nutrients are supplied through the water. Soil is a source of soil-borne diseases (pests, fungus, etc.) so when you eradicate the soil you increase your yield.

Oh, and t

Re:fertilizer? (1)

ddt (14627) | about 5 months ago | (#45399153)

It's a common misconception that you need fertilization. If you plant the right crops together, they feed each other the nutrients and take care of nitrogen fixation. The catch is that with intermixed crops, it can become more difficult to harvest your crops with bulk thrashers, but robotics and image recognition can come to the rescue on this front.

Re:fertilizer? (1)

Inda (580031) | about 5 months ago | (#45399179)

That's bollocks.

Plants need NPK plus about 14 other elements. Where's the PK coming from if you don't feed?

Re:fertilizer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45399531)

The soil usually, but a lot of this permie stuff is location dependent as well. Most places in the U.S. though you aren't adding P or K in an agronomic situation.

Re:fertilizer? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45399577)

Brawndo. Where else?

Re:fertilizer? (1)

AttillaTheNun (618721) | about 5 months ago | (#45400127)

Same place the chem-ag fertilizers get it from - the soil. Who fertilizes the forests?

The parent poster is referring to plants known to be nutrient accumulators. They cycle nutrients from the soil into their leaves, making them available to other plants as they die off.

Re:fertilizer? (1)

upuv (1201447) | about 5 months ago | (#45399219)

The are using desal water from evaporation. Very low in Salts. If not zero. They are also in a green house not open field. If the soil gets contaminated with salt they can simply dump it into the sea. Which would not be a bad way of sinking some carbon come to think of it.

In Australia water the desert just results in evaporation of the water. Which leaves behind salt on the land. It was not well thought out.

Clearly different methods of bring green to the sand.

Re:fertilizer? (4, Interesting)

biodata (1981610) | about 5 months ago | (#45399335)

There isn't a worry here about salination of the soil because the salts end up in the evaporation columns. I saw a lo-tech version of this described a couple of years ago at the UK Plant Sci conference, and this project sounds like an outgrowth from that - they also described the effect on the land outside the greenhouse, with spontaneous growth of native desert flora due to the increased external humidity. The experimenters used a greenhouse with a cardboard wall on the upwind side - the sea water soaks up the wall and is evaporated into the greenhouse by the wind, leaving the salts in the cardboard. After a few years the cardboard wall is a very rigid mineral-rich material that you can use for building structures like sheds.

Frank Herbert smiles from beyond (2)

Xtense (1075847) | about 5 months ago | (#45398843)

"To the people whose labors go beyond ideas into the realm of 'real materials'- to the dry-land ecologists, wherever they may be, in whatever time they work, this effort at prediction is dedicated in humility and admiration."
        âFrank Herbert

Not accounting for the usability of this exact piece of science in a practical setting, we will develop further. I salute you guys, you're the thankless people who are doing actual work making this world a better place. Thank you.

permaculture (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45398943)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1rKDXuZ8C0

There are other ways (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45398981)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sohI6vnWZmk
Permaculture - Greening the Desert

Easy improvements here (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45399021)

What they really need is a droid who speaks the binary language of moisture vaporators.

dodgy use of maths...? (0)

beh (4759) | about 5 months ago | (#45399053)

From TFA:
"75 kilograms of vegetables per square meter in three crops annually (or 25 kilograms per square meter, per crop)"

Huh? If it's 75kg of vegetables per square meter in three crops, that doesn't make it 25 kgs per sqm _per crop_... It's still 75kg per square meter...

Re:dodgy use of maths...? (1)

deroby (568773) | about 5 months ago | (#45399139)

75 kg/m2 per year
three crops annually as in : harvesting 3 times / year.
Thus, per crop = each harvest = 75kg/m2 divided by 3 = 25kg/m2

Re:dodgy use of maths...? (1)

upuv (1201447) | about 5 months ago | (#45399225)

Did you see the size of the tomato's?

Huge like a child's head.

---
yah I agree. Seems a bit high.

A noble effort, should be repeated (1)

Camembert (2891457) | about 5 months ago | (#45399055)

This is a great initative that could be be beneficial and hunger suppressing in multiple sandy countries in northern africa and the middle east. As long as the country borders on the sea. Sadly this leaves out Mali, Niger and a few more landlocked piss-poor countries in the regio.

Ideally this would be combined with careful irrigation and planting strategies to stop the desertification (if that is a word). Such a more classic initiative worked well in one of these countries (I forgot which one), but a civil war destroyed all the good effort practically overnight, a shame.

Re:A noble effort, should be repeated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45399887)

You know what ? Only condoms and other contraceptives will actually do ANYTHING sustainable against hunger in Africa and the Islamic world. And India. All of these multiply like mad. And its an EXPONENTIAL curve.

I know dumb, propaganda-filled Americans won't like me saying this, but China is actually the country with the most rational hunger-control policy: control population and food supply is no longer a problem.
My predicition is that America will have similar policies as China, as soon as 3500 million people live on what is now the US territory. That would be the equivalent population density.

Re:A noble effort, should be repeated (1)

Fjandr (66656) | about 5 months ago | (#45400087)

The US population growth is flattening, as are most other industrial countries. Education has turned out to be the most effective means of birth control. The least-educated segments of the population drive the vast majority of population growth.

Keep the goats away (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45399173)

There have been plenty of small farming projects on the expanding edge of the Sahara showing that the spread of hte Sahara is not inevitable, it's plagued by overfarming and overgrazing of cattle. And lord, the *goats*!! They eat the plants right down to the roots, and basically ruin agriculture by destroying the ground cover that keep the desert in check. It's similar to the problem settlers had in tUS southwest, when horse ranches faced incursion by sheep farmers whose animals ate the grass down to the roots and ruined grasslands and hay crops for the horses.

The ability of humans to manage to overfarm, overgraze, and deplete any arable land should not be underestimated: it's going to take goo land management to keep this working on a large scale

Why not ask the Israelis? (3, Insightful)

Lucky_Pierre (175635) | about 5 months ago | (#45399255)

They have the most experience in greenhouses and desert agriculture. Even the Navajo Nation is studying Israeli methods.

Re:Why not ask the Israelis? (1)

mi (197448) | about 5 months ago | (#45399529)

Hell will undergo a climate change before an Arab nation will openly admit, Israel is doing something — anything — worth studying and copying.

Spell and Grammar Check, Please (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45399257)

What the fuck, Slashdot? Can you please hire someone with an IQ above 70 to do your editing for you? You know it's bad when I only come to Slashdot anymore for the entertainment value of the idiotic editors and the brilliant trolls.

"Need" cucumbers, etc. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45399301)

Does anyone really "need" a cucumber or eggplant?

Biofuel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45399321)

Qatar is in dire need of biofuel.

Gaddaffi did something similar in Libya (1)

ryzvonusef (1151717) | about 5 months ago | (#45399361)

Re:Gaddaffi did something similar in Libya (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45399845)

wasnt the key point here that they dont use non-replenishing wells ? the lybians are actually depleting a reservoir that doesn't replenish. At some places it is apparently already completely depleted.

Once again proof of Arab irrationality and medival-ness in the lybian project.
If they had any real science going, they would build solar-powered desalination plants or vegetables which can grow in salt water.

The major problem of the rich world is the laziness. Nobody wants to manuall de-salinate a plant, so they/we either waste voracious amounts of energy or mineral water that will be depleted in a few decades.

In short, makind is stupid and lazy. The most stupid and the most lazy are the moist desirable groups.

Re:Gaddaffi did something similar in Libya (1)

brianerst (549609) | about 5 months ago | (#45400195)

I forget all the details at this point, but I remember that the Israelis had a huge number of similar greenhouses in Gaza - thousands of them - that were responsible for something like 15% of total Israeli agricultural output. Fresh vegetables grow well in greenhouses. (Taste may be a different matter...)

Cost? (0)

jamesl (106902) | about 5 months ago | (#45400137)

When the cost isn't mentioned, we can be sure that it is unknown, unknowable or very high.

The technology here is not new -- greenhouses with a solar concentrator for energy and "swamp cooler" technology for cooling. What is possibly new is the location and integration of a old technologies with a newer one.

Get back to me when you have a cost.

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