Agroforestry is a method and system of land management involving the simultaneous cultivation of farm crops and trees. This technique ensures a continuous food supply, increased economic return and combats desertification and soil erosion, while increasing the use of desert drylands through agriculture.
An agroforestry method called the intercrop system will be used in the olive grove at Wadi Mashash.
How does the intercrop system work? Olive trees are being planted in traditional rows, and in between each row of trees the intercrop, a grain, will be planted. Possible grains include wheat, sorghum and corn. Planting grain in between the rows of olive trees produces an additional crop that can be consumed or sold.
The intercrop system is ideal for countries in arid zones that need to maximize their crop output with very little rainfall. The fruit of the olive tree produces high quality olive oil. The grain produced provides food for people and animals.
Water flow and root development will be studied using miniature cameras lowered into the soil through transparent pipes. Researchers (mostly graduate and post-graduate students) will study root system development and the competition for resources. They will measure water usage and uptake, observe how the plants react to stress – primarily due to lack of water – and measure the final crop yield.
One challenge is that the plants share a common pool of water stored in the soil. BGU researchers will focus on managing resources so that each plant will thrive without competing with the other for water.
Three research techniques will be evaluated:
Providing sufficient rainfall and floods in the winter of 2014, the grain intercrop will be planted, as will another grove of olive trees.