Here’s a fun fact.
Israeli farmers grow approximately seven times as many fruits and vegetables today as they did 25 years ago without an appreciable increase in water usage.
The lack of rain in
has, of necessity, led to technological advances in agriculture that have changed the world. Israel
The drip irrigation system was developed in Kibbutz Hatzerim (about 10 minutes – with traffic – from my house), and today is sold all around the world. It has revolutionized agriculture, not only in
, but in Israel Africa, the Western United States and South America. They sell their technology to 112 countries.
But saving water through irrigation is just one way to save water.
Israeli researchers are on the cutting edge in the use of recycled water.
The average palm tree – say in
– produces 17 kg of dates a year. Israeli palm trees produce over ten times as much – an average 182 kg a year. The streets near my home are lined with palm trees and in the autumn, around Rosh HaShana time, it seems that all 182 kg falls to the ground. If you hurry, you can take as many as you can carry, before they get stepped on. The trees are too tall to be picked without an extra large cherry-picker machine, which I suppose is called a date-picker.... California
Altogether, more than 40 different kinds of fruits are grown here, and
leads in citrus production and is second, after Israel , in the production of loquats. There’s another fun fact to take to your friends. Japan
Israeli agronomists are also busy developing new and improved fruit. Researchers are now creating a new strain of prickly pears (aka sabra fruit), without the prickles. Not as much fun, perhaps, but a lot easier to eat. Now if we could only grow sabra people without the prickles.
Growing fruits and vegetables that are indigenous to the region or easily adaptable to the Israeli soil and climate is no longer a challenge. Researchers have been busy bringing new species to the country and adapting them to their new home. Berries that need a cool climate have learned to love the heat. Where once blueberries and blackberries were only a faint memory of the 'old country', now they are available in many moshavim in the Golan and in Gush Etzion.
Fruits that require huge amounts of water, no longer do.
Native to the jungles of
South America, the pitaya (also known as dragon-fruit) was brought to in the early 20th century and now grows across central Vietnam Asia. These being tropical lands with large amounts of rainfall, it didn’t seem possible to adapt the fruit to the . Yet, not only is the fruit being grown commercially in Israel, with exports of 30-50 tons a year, mostly to desert of Israel Europe, it tastes better than its Asian cousins. And needs a lot less water.
I am privileged to have gotten to know Prof. Yossi Mizrachi of
in the Ben-Gurion University Negev, who was the principal researcher who adapted the pitaya fruit to . He worked in an office down the hall from mine. Once, he took me and two colleagues on a short tour of his hot houses where his pitayas grew in pots. Not only do the pots greatly lessen insect infestation of the tree and lower water loss but, Yossi gleefully informed me, they also makes the pitaya kosher in a shmita year. Israel