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Sustainable water use securing food production in dry areas of the Mediterranean region

Final Report Summary - SWUP-MED (Sustainable water use securing food production in dry areas of the Mediterranean region)

Executive Summary:

Executive summary

The objective of SWUP-MED was to improve the cropping systems of the Mediterranean region, suffering from increasing drought, saline soils and temperature extremes.

A lot of emphasis was put on legumes, as they are valuable for improving soil fertility, and simultaneously they are in high demand. In the EU is only produced c. 20% of its internal demand, mainly as protein feed, whereas the rest is imported soybean. Also for food there is an increasing import from outside Europe, mainly for the Mediterranean market. In the project was tested a range of legumes, that is faba bean, chickpea and lentil, for better tolerance to drought, soil salinity and other stresses. 3 faba bean, 2 chickpea and 1 lentil accession with improved abiotic stress tolerance were selected for future production and breeding. Among new crops, 1 quinoa accession was selected with better performance.

Spectral indices can be used for selection for seed yield under drought prone environments. New specific traits to aim at in future breeding are related to winter sowing, which is recommended because of more rainfall and lower temperatures. However, problems to be faced with winter sowing are cold and frost, and some diseases. In chickpea and amaranth was demonstrated up to double yield with winter sowing, however the opposite may be seen in case a frost occur. Therefore the problem is complex, depending on specific climatic conditions, however, the selected material from our project will perform better than traditionally grown varieties of legumes and new crops.

Other agronomic practices with significant effect on the Mediterranean cropping systems were the use of certified seeds, that is high quality seed for sowing, combined with manure. Often is used farmers’ own seeds and little or no manure for the crops, so applying these techniques caused a doubling of the yield.

Water is scarce, and increasingly in the Mediterranean region due to climate changes. Therefore every drop of water must be used in the most efficient way. Different strategies for water harvesting have been analysed, and the distribution of the water to the crops should be the most advanced principles of irrigation, that is drip lines placed on the surface or even better as subsurface drip lines, with water applied as supplemental irrigation in the form of deficit irrigation, or alternate root zone drying technique. Deficit irrigation may save 30% water with same yield as full irrigation. Different qualities of water may be used, that is treated wastewater and saline water, provided a consistent monitoring of salinity build-up in soils under supplemental, deficit, and full irrigation systems is performed. Faba bean was most salt tolerant legume, but much less tolerant than amaranth ad quinoa, tolerating up to 30 dS m-1 with no yield penalty.

It was demonstrated that farmers are able to cultivate new crops like quinoa in the semi-arid Mediterranean region, and that it is possible to introduce quinoa and amaranth to the domestic markets in the Mediterranean region. Institutional- and market barriers should be defined in each country.

SALTMED model has been undergoing several developments. It can provide information on crop growth and relative yield for future climatic scenarios so this approach represents a useful decision system for sustainable agronomic management.

In conclusion, the results of introducing the agronomic measures of the SWUP-MED project, i.e. improved rotation, cropping and irrigation systems including use of low quality water, and new varieties and crops, showed significantly positive effects on overall agricultural productivity, soil quality and resilience. The project results will help farmers and extension workers in making smart decisions, selecting appropriate food legumes and new crops for developing climate-proof cropping systems for food security and market potential, and to choose best strategies for water use. Finally, new market channels were recommended for the new crops.

Project Context and Objectives:

Summary description of project context and objectives

The strategic objective of the project “Sustainable water use securing food production in dry areas of the Mediterranean region (SWUP-MED)” was to improve food crop production in the Mediterranean region, which is influenced by multiple abiotic stresses. These stresses are becoming even more pronounced under changing climate, predicted to result in drier conditions, increasing temperatures, and greater variability, causing desertification. The project has mainly operated in farmers’ communities and focused on the improvement of cropping systems by strengthening a diversified crop rotation and using marginal-quality water for supplemental irrigation aiming at:

1. Introduction and test of new climate-proof crops and cultivars with improved stress tolerance, selecting promising varieties of cereals, grain legumes and new crops. Climate-proof traits were identified for breeding programmes using advanced physiological and biochemical screening tools. Supplemental irrigation was performed as deficit irrigation by different sources of water.
2. Investigation of the sustainable field applicability of the cropping systems, such as environmental effects related to irrigation water quality assessed by monitoring groundwater and soil quality.
3. Financial implications for the farmer, and economic costs and benefits in the food sector was analysed.
4. Development of a research synthesis in dialogue with the food sector, based on experimental results and advanced simulation modelling to improve farming systems management, utilizing dynamic tools that ease adaptation to the effects of a variable and changing climate. The approach is participatory, involving farmer’s communities, the market and the political level.

An important component of this project was to introduce new climate-proof crops and improve cropping systems´ management. Based on an assessment of the systems, new varieties and species with improved tolerance to drought and salinity were introduced in the crop rotations of rainfed and irrigated farming systems. This has interacted synergistically with improved agronomic practices. Tolerance to multiple abiotic stresses was assessed by physiological, biochemical and molecular methods, and new crops with significantly improved properties (food quality and multiple stress tolerance) were selected. New irrigation techniques were tested, such as deficit irrigation, applied as supplemental irrigation. Three water sources were mobilized: water from rainwater harvesting, saline and treated wastewater, which all contribute to saving of fresh water, and to increase yield of the cropping systems of small-scale farmers.

Strategic objective

Food crop production is restricted in the Mediterranean region. Typical crop cultivation under semi-arid and arid conditions in Mediterranean countries, affected by multiple abiotic stress factors further influenced by climate change, are cereals in low yielding monoculture or eventually combined with fallow. The strategic objective of the project therefore is:

Improve food production by introducing climate-proof varieties in crop rotations of wheat, grain legumes and new crops (potentially high value food cash crops), in a rainfed system with supplemental deficit irrigation using marginal-quality water and harvested rainwater. This will accelerate adoption of improved agricultural practices supporting small farmers’ livelihood and income levels.

Project Results:


Annual rainfall in the Mediterranean region varies between 300 and 1000 mm, covering arid, semi-arid and some wet ecosystems. With almost 7% of the global population, the region accounts for only 2% of the world freshwater resources, with two thirds concentrated in the European countries. Freshwater resources and population densities are unevenly distributed across the region. Water quality deterioration is another crucial factor affecting agricultural productivity and environmental quality. There is a need to use the available freshwater and other water resources such as those of marginal-quality (saline water and wastewater) in agriculture more efficiently in conjunction with the cultivation of cereals, grain legumes, and new crops and cultivars with improved abiotic stress tolerance.

New climate proof crops and cultivars

The growing demand for food poses major challenges to humankind. We have to safeguard both biodiversity and arable land for future agricultural food production, and we need to protect genetic diversity to safeguard ecosystem resilience. We must produce more food with less input, while deploying every effort to minimize risk (Jacobsen et al., 2013).

The introduction of new crops has the potential to increase farmers’ income and livelihoods. The new crop rotations may involve salt-tolerant crops that have economic relevance in the local farming systems. Additionally, the cultivation of drought- and salt-tolerant food legumes has the potential to enhance the farm-level productivity and livelihoods in drought- and salt-prone areas. Amaranth is a seed crop consumed as a cooked vegetable in many parts of the world. Owing to its high nutritive value and a wide adaptability to diverse environments, amaranth has been considered a promising seed crop for marginal lands and semi-arid regions. Another new crop is quinoa, which is gaining interest because of its robust character and its high nutritional value. Apart from the high protein content and the balanced presence of essential amino acids such as lysine, quinoa and amaranth are also rich in vitamins and minerals.

Based on an assessment of the farming systems, new varieties and species with improved tolerance to drought and salinity was introduced in the crop rotations of rainfed and irrigated farming systems. This has interacted synergistically with improved agronomic practices. Tolerance to multiple abiotic stresses was assessed by physiological, biochemical and molecular methods, and new crops with outstanding properties (food quality and stress tolerance) have been selected from the test-material. New irrigation techniques were tested, such as deficit irrigation, applied as supplemental irrigation. Three water sources were mobilized, from rainwater harvesting, saline and treated wastewater, which all contribute to saving of fresh water, and boosting yield of the farming systems of the small-scale farmers of the Mediterranean countries.

Climate proof species and cultivars

Drought and salinity

Several environmental factors adversely affect plant growth and development. Salinity is one of the most important abiotic stresses, which induces a wide range of perturbations at both cell and whole plant levels (Munns, 2005). Drought is considered an increasingly expensive problem for plant production. Plant responses to salt and drought stress have much in common, since high salt concentrations decrease the osmotic potential of soil solution, creating drought stress in plants. In addition to this osmotic constraint, salt stress also imposes ionic stress on plants, mainly in relation to Na+ and Cl− accumulation (Lefèvre et al., 2001; Munns, 2002).

Cereals are the principal crops in many arid and semi-arid regions, but there is a great potential to increase local farms’ productivity by sowing legumes and introducing new crops and improved wheat cultivars.


Four durum and four bread wheat genotypes were tested under rainfed conditions. Significant differences were found between genotypes. Durum wheat variety ‘Karim’ and bread wheat variety ‘Mehdia’ performed better than other varieties under dryland conditions.


Variation was found among lentil, chickpea and faba bean accessions. Adaptation trials of 15 accessions of chickpea, 13 from the ICARDA collection and 2 from Portugal, took place during three years in Portugal, Syria and Morocco. The trials were conducted under rainfed conditions and with irrigation. Different levels of drought and heat were studied showing an effect on pod abortion, and a high variability in grain yield among genotypes and regions (1-5 t ha-1).

4 groups of chickpea genotypes were identified (Fig. 1):

1) Genotypes ‘ILC 3182’ and ‘FLIP03-145C’ with good performance across all environments;
2) Genotypes ‘FLIP87-8C’ and ‘ILC 588’ with good adaptation for poor environments;
3) Genotypes ‘ILC 3279, ‘ILC 10722’, ILC 1302’, ‘FLIP03-046C’ and ‘FLIP04-019C’ with poor adaption to poor environments;
4) ‘FLIP03-002C’ with poor response to all climatic and edaphic conditions.

Groups 1 and 2 are most interesting for semiarid conditions. Group 4 is of no interest.

Yields were in Portugal up to 2 t/ha in 2009, 3 t/ha in 2010 and 6 t/ha in 2011. In Aleppo the yields the three years were 1.4 0.6 and 0.2 t/ha, indicating much drier conditions in Aleppo, but also significant annual differences between years.

Fig. 1. Grain yield mean (kg ha-1) of chickpea accessions grown in two locations (Left- Elvas, Portugal and Right- Aleppo, Syria) (2009, 2010 and 2011)

Accessions FLIP03-145C and ILC 3182 showed general good performance under moderate and severe water scarce conditions. In the most stressful years, FLIP87-8C and ILC 588 were on top 5 both in Portugal and Syria. Differences in phenological development indicate that chickpea genotypes that fasten their development cycle had higher grain yield, especially in dry years. ILC588, which is tolerant to drought, presented the lowest number of days to maturity, and earliness in flowering. Distinct patterns were also observed in the principal components analysis of data concerning leaf gas exchange, water relations and hormones in six chickpea genotypes, chosen by their contrasting behavior. This suggests metabolic and phenological differences in the response to stress. Chickpea yield in Morocco ranged in 2009 from 60 to 4460 kg/ha. In 2010, only 8 accessions were studied in Bouchane (Morocco) because it was not possible to produce seeds from the others accessions.

Based on all trials at several sites, two genotypes FLIP03-145C and ILC588 were selected for high drought tolerance, high seed yield and earliness. They could be promoted with national programs after incorporating other appropriate traits through breeding.

In faba bean grain yield varied significantly between accessions and different water regimes. From studies on 11 accessions, phenological and agronomical traits were affected by terminal drought in Syria, with DT/B7/9043/2005/06 showing the best tolerance to drought, and DT/B7/9013/2005/06 the most stable. Yield was 1-3.5 t/ha under rainfed conditions and up to 5 t/ha with supplemental irrigation. In Morocco yield was 1-4.5 t/ha under rainfed conditions, with ILB 1270 being the best accession. In Turkey FLIP06-010FB was found to be the highest yielding and most stable across different environments, less dry than in Syria and Morocco. Days to flowering and maturity were associated with seed yield. Supplemental irrigation at flowering stages, podding and grain filling had a positive effect on biomass, plant height and Rhizobium weight.

Faba bean drought tolerant lines performed homogenously under rainfed conditions, with rainfall of 300-400 mm. Under extreme drought (with less than 250 mm), yield dropped to 1.2 t/ha on average of the tested lines, while traditional varieties gave less than 1 t/ha. Days to maturity (DMAT), days to flowering and distance between nodes (DTN) explained 88% of grain yied in dryland system, while DMAT, DTN and Rhizobium weight explained 65% of biological yield.

15 lentil breeding lines were selected under rainfed conditions and with supplemental irrigation at two locations in Syria for four years. Highest seed yield in lentils under rainfed conditions was recorded in ILL 7670 and ILL 6994, with 1 t/ha. Early maturing lines with high biomass performed best under water deficit conditions. Heat was a major confounding effect on drought evaluation.

Conclusion legumes

Improved accessions of each of the three legume species have been identified for different conditions, either aimed at arid regions or being able to perform satisfactorily under a broad range of environments. The overall results show that legumes were affected by terminal drought. Earliness was the most important trait to discriminate genotypes. Supplemental irrigation at flowering had a positive effect on increasing biomass, plant height and Rhizobium weight, with response depending on genotype.

New crops

In the face of diminishing fresh water resources and increasing soil salinisation it is relevant to evaluate the potential of halophytic plant species to be cultivated in arid and semi-arid regions, where the productivity of most crop plants is markedly affected. Introduction of new crops such as quinoa, which is considered drought and salt tolerant, and amaranth and lupin, may contribute to more resilient crop rotations and high value cash crop products in Mediterranean.

Quinoa is a new, potential crop for semiarid zones, which can improve land productivity and support a sustainable cropping system when used in rotation with cereals. Quinoa is a facultative halophytic plant species with the most tolerant varieties being able to cope with salinity levels as high as those present in sea water. This characteristic has aroused interest, and a number of studies have been performed with the aim of elucidating the mechanisms used by quinoa in order to cope with high salt levels in the soil at various stages of plant development. Simultaneously quinoa can guarantee a good diet and wellbeing for the local population, due to its high nutritional quality and potential for income generation due to its market demand.

Highest quinoa yield of 3.5 t ha-1was reached in Turkey in 2012, planted in rows with surface irrigation and hand weeding. The lowest yield of 0.9 t ha-1 was achieved under rainfed conditions, seeds broadcasted in autumn and poorly managed. The previous years quinoa yield was lower, due to less experience with the crop. Yield was much higher than in Morocco. WUE ranged from 0,3 to 0,7 kg/m3. Yield parameters, such as above ground biomass, seed yield and HI, suggested a good adaptation of quinoa to salinity and drought in the Mediterranean environment. The effects of planting times and irrigation amount had significant effect on yield, where highest seed yield was obtained from the full irrigation treatment with normal planting time. Higher water productivity was obtained from early planting time. As a food ingredient, chemical composition of the seeds showed that they can be successfully used to develop new products with important nutritional and organoleptic properties. The introduction of 10% quinoa in mixtures with rice or maize showed a composition comparable to commercial, gluten-free pasta with high protein content. Results suggest that it is possible to develop new quality products for celiac consumers from quinoa.

In Italy, in the field trials conducted, seed yield, above-ground biomass and harvest index (HI) were not negatively affected by salt (ECw of 20 dS m-1) and drought stress (25% of full irrigation (Q25)). Average seed yield ranged from 2.3 to 2.7 t ha-1. Besides yield, growth and physiological parameters, ion accumulation in different organs and qualitative aspects of quinoa seeds were assessed. Plant growth and water productivity (WP, kg m-3) defined as the ratio between total seed yield and the total amount of water applied (rainfall and irrigation water) to the crop were not influenced by saline irrigation. Treatment Q25 caused an increase of WP and a reduced dry matter accumulation in the leaves. At the end of the experiment, salt-irrigated plants showed a severe drop in leaf water potential (Ψleaf) (below -2 MPa), resulting in stomatal closure through interactive effects of soil water availability and salt excess to control the loss of turgor in leaves. Salinity and drought affected relative water content (RWC) and leaf water potential, regulating cellular water deficit and volume as a powerful mechanism for conserving cellular water under stress, resulting in osmotic adjustment at turgor loss. Quinoa showed good resistance to drought and salt stress through stomatal responses and osmotic adjustments that played a role in the maintenance of a leaf turgor favorable to plant growth and crop yield (Cocozza et al., 2013).

Samples grown under saline treatments had a higher level of sapogenins compared with non-saline treatments and they decreased under drought (25 and 50% as compared to full irrigation). Analysis of phenolics (Gómez-Caravaca et al., 2012) indicated that Q25 irrigation, with and without salt, caused an increase in free phenolic compounds of 23.16% and 26.27%, respectively. In contrast, bound phenolic compounds were not affected by environmental stresses.

In quinoa key traits seem to be an efficient control of Na+ sequestration in leaf vacuoles, xylem Na+ loading, higher ROS tolerance, better K+ retention, and an efficient control over stomatal development and aperture (Adolf et al., 2013; Bonales-Alatorre et al., 2013; Fghire et al., 2013; Shabala et al., 2012; 2013).

Amaranth was studied in Napoli, Italy, with field experiments being conducted in Volturno river plain. Yields ranged from 0,7 t/ha in rainfed plots to 2.5 t/ha under irrigation. The aims was to study the potential to introduce amaranth into the traditional cropping systems of southern Italy, and the agronomic responses of amaranth to different irrigation levels using saline and non-saline water.

A comparison between a fully irrigated treatment (control) and two deficit irrigation treatments (25 and 50% of the control) was performed, with irrigation water being either fresh or saline water (ECw 22 dS m-1). Results showed that a reduction of 50% of irrigation volume using either fresh or saline water did not cause a significant yield reduction with respect to full irrigated treatment. Amaranth should be considered moderately tolerant to salinity. The Maas and Hoffman model, applied both to the well irrigated treatments and to those irrigated in maximum drought stress conditions, indicates that the interaction of drought and saline stress reduces amaranths’ tolerance to ECe. The chemical composition of amaranth seeds in starch, protein and ash were significantly affected by the treatments. There was a higher protein and oil content in amaranth seeds than in cereals. Amaranth was moderately tolerant to salinity and drought.

Lupin is a legume, but also considered a new crop. Lupin shows large differences in phenology. A multiplication and adaptation trial with 10 accessions of lupins (Lupinus albus) was undertaken in Portugal. The accessions exhibited large differences in phenology, in what concerns flowering time and growth type (determined or non-determined). Yield ranged from 600 to 1600 kg/ha in Portugal. Genotype 642 was superior with respect to yield. Differences in growth and root morphology were also observed, in a study under controlled conditions using 6 genotypes from contrasting origins, with genotype 582 showing the highest total root length, volume and root surface area, with possible beneficial effects in terms of drought resistance. This genotype showed the second highest production under field conditions (1400 kg/ha). No significant differences were observed in photosynthetic performance, which suggest that the yield potential may be more dependent on total LAI and growth type. Seed quality parameters - protein, fat, %C and N, galactans, alpha-galactosides and starch - were measured in the ten lines. A large range of values were observed, depending on line and year. Protein ranged from 27 to 43%, fat from 6.3 to 9.6% and starch from 0.11 to 0.24% of seed dry weight. This leads to a high potential for lupin adaptation in the Mediterranean area.

Quinoa in Agadir, Morocco, irrigated with treated wastewater Saline water from sea for irrigation in Turkey Chickpea in Turkey

Commercial plantlet production in Turkey Line source irrigation, wheat, Turkey Quinoa selection, Bouchane, Morocco

Conclusion drought and salinity

A review on drought and salinity parameters of importance in quinoa, based on results obtained in SWUP-MED, mainly in Italy and Denmark, is shown in Table 1 (Sun & Jacobsen, 2013).

The results showed that quinoa and amaranth grown in Italy were tolerant to salinity level of 22 dS m-1 with very little reduction in yield even when using 25% of the crop water requirement. When using water with salinity up to 40 dS m-1 in Denmark, quinoa yield was only reduced by 17% when compared with fresh water irrigation. The study in Turkey showed that when using irrigation water with salinity up to 30 dS m-1 on quinoa, there was hardly any reduction in yield.

Legumes in Syria showed less salinity tolerance. Fresh water and up to 5 dS m-1 water salinity was used to irrigate faba bean, lentil, and chickpea. The threshold value of 50% yield reduction in lentil, chickpea, and faba bean occurred at salinity levels of 4.4 dS m-1, 4.2 dS m-1, and 5.2 dS m-1, respectively.

Salinity levels used in different experiments on amaranth (Italy up to 22 dS/m), and quinoa (Denmark up to 40 dS/m and Turkey up to 30 dS/m) did not produce a 50% yield reduction. Such reduction only took place when the water added was dropped to 33% of the full irrigation. The results showed the possibility of significant water saving with an acceptable reduction in yield. The levels tolerated by legumes are much lower (3.6-5.4 dS m-1).

Threshold ECe for quinoa derived from the relationship between relative yield (Yr) and electrical conductivity of soil saturated paste (ECe) varied between 3-6 dS m‒1 (Fig. 2) (Razzaghi et al., 2013). The regression equation between Yr and ECe indicated that the maximum ECe resulting in zero yield is 51.5 dS m‒1. The ECe level at which 50% reduction in yield occurred for quinoa was 25 dS m‒1; showing that quinoa may be classified as a highly salt-tolerant crop able to produce yield under highly saline conditions (Fig. 2).

Introduction of climate proof crops such as quinoa and amaranth revealed the potential to increase farmers’ income and livelihoods in arid areas of the Mediterranean region to save freshwater resources for other purposes. The results showed good adaptation and a high degree of flexibility of quinoa and amaranth for tolerance to drought and salt stress in a Mediterranean-type environment. Qualitative analysis on quinoa seeds confirmed the high protein level of quinoa, greater than that of cereals (Jensen et al., 2010; Hariadi et al., 2011; Razzaghi et al., 2011; 2012a,b; Stikic et al., 2012; Jacobsen et al., 2012; Adolf et al., 2012; 2013).

Fig 2 Relationship between relative seed yield (Yr) and ECe. Black lines are divisions to classify crop tolerance to salinity (Razzaghi et al., 2013).

Red line is the regression line for quinoa between the measured variables in the field-lysimeter experiment; dashed blue line indicates the ECe at which 50% reduction in yield occurred

Breeding and selection

In the Mediterranean climate, due to its large inter-annual variability, it is important to identify genotypes that can cope with different types of environment. The evaluation of the agro-morphological diversity through univariate and multivariate analysis pointed out the best performing genotypes with respect to earliness, short plants and seed yield being the main traits common to the advanced lines. Therefore they are relevant selection criteria in national breeding programs. Furthermore, accessions belonging to the same cluster and having desirable traits could be crossed to accessions from other clusters to gather favourable genes in one elite variety.

An interesting tool to utilize is the spectral indices Structure Insensitive Pigment Index (SIPI) and Normalized Phenophytinization Index (NPQI) which can be used for selection for seed yield under drought prone environments.

In legumes, pod number and seeds per plant, seed size and harvest index were useful selection criteria for rainfed conditions.

Halophytic crop species such as quinoa, which originates from the South American Andes, might be an option for sustaining agriculture in the Mediterranean region, which increasingly suffers from water scarcity, salinity and high temperatures. In quinoa earliness and yield were the most important traits to discriminate genotypes, and relatively easy to use for selection. Adaptation trials of quinoa were performed in Morocco, Turkey and Italy. Quinoa showed a large potential for growing under abiotic stress conditions, with better performance in newly reclaimed sandy soils compared to wheat. In Morocco, a total of 78 quinoa accessions developed through recurrent selection from the Bolivian, Chilean and Peruvian genetic material introduced in 2000 to Morocco were evaluated on the basis of agro-morphological traits, performed under field conditions in Rabat (Manal et al. 2013a). The most productive line (L142) yielded 1.9 t/ha (Kaoutar et al. 2013).

In Italy it was decided to include new quinoa cultivars resistant to abiotic stresses. Seven varieties were tested (three from Bolivia and four from the collection of the University of Copenhagen). Comparing productivity among the seven quinoa varieties growing in dry condition, Titicaca and Puno from Denmark showed highest yield (about 2 t ha-1), being more adaptable to the environment of Southern Italy. The highest harvest index (around 40) was obtained in the variety Titicaca. Protein and lipid content was significantly highest in Titicaca and Puno, in Titicaca with 17% protein content in seed. Furthermore, Titicaca had a significantly higher level of linoleic fatty acid (around 60 g 100-1g of drymatter) compared to all other varieties. These results suggest that the Danish varieties could be cultivated successfully under Mediterranean climatic conditions. Chemical composition of Titicaca seeds shows that this variety can be successfully used as a food ingredient to develop new products with interesting nutritional and organoleptic properties. On the other hand, Puno has higher milling performance and low content of saponins. As the quinoa flour does not contain gluten, technological tests were done to introduce inulin extracted from cardoon to assess the traditional leavened dough for bread. The alveographic indices showed that adding HDP inulin, the quality in terms of extensibility and the strength of dough were improved both in Titicaca and Puno.

Temperatures of quinoa growth seasons of the Bolivian highland and Morocco were simulated in climate chambers. Plant growth, development and yield were analysed under saline and non-saline conditions. The aim was to evaluate the performance of a salt tolerant Bolivian quinoa cultivar on saline soils under warm temperatures.

Fig. 3 Representative plants for each treatment combination (M0, MS, B0 and BS) at day 68 of the growth cycle, which corresponds to 1490 GDD in the warm M-climate and 820 GDD in the cooler B-climate.

Salt treated plants were significantly smaller under both temperature conditions. M0-plants were much branched and inflorescences emerged at almost all nodes and side branches (Fig. 3). In addition, the main inflorescence was larger than that of plants grown in the B-climate or under saline conditions. Leaf size was smaller in plants grown at higher temperature (Fig. 3).

Fig. 4 Electrical conductivity (ECe) in dS m-1, of soil sampled at the end of the growth period at final harvest (n=3-4).

The ECe of M0- and B0-soil was not significantly different and in average 3.1 dS m-1. Soil from pots of BS-plants had an ECe of 26.6 dS m-1 at final plant harvest, which was significantly lower than that of MS-plants (p=0.015) which was 45.8 dS m-1 (Fig. 4).

The plants showed plasticity to acclimate to higher temperatures. Salinity reduced yield, seed size and individual seed weight. The temperature conditions in the Moroccan climate prolonged the flowering period, but shortened the time of seed filling when compared to plants grown in the cooler Bolivian climate. The result was more seeds of smaller size and weight in the warm climate. Seed yield was not different between salt treated plants of the two climates. Plants of all treatments produced viable seeds; however, germination was negatively affected by high temperature and salt exposure of parental plants.

Differences in drought tolerance between cultivars of quinoa was studied, and it was found that the Danish cultivar Titicaca had less tolerance to drought and salinity than a Bolivian cultivar, but that on the other hand Titicaca was more generally adapted to a broad range of environments, due to its neutrality to daylength. Titicaca can therefore adapt to conditions from north to south Europe, and even north Africa (Jacobsen et al., 2010).

The results suggest a potential for growing quinoa in a Mediterranean climate, even under saline conditions.

Optimizing land management

Crop rotations

Mono-cropping of cereals is the main productivity constraint in dry areas of the Mediterranean region. This system is affected by multiple abiotic stresses, and further aggravated by climate changes. Wheat monoculture is common in several parts of the Mediterranean region such as Morocco, Syria, and Turkey.

In Morocco farm surveys conducted at two sites, Bouchane 80 km north and M’nabha, 40 km north-east of Marrakech, generated an overview on the main type of crop production at smallholding scale, and described the main cropping systems typical to Mediterranean semi-arid regions.

Family size in Bouchane was larger with 3-7 adults than Mnabha’s 2-5 (Benlhabib et al. 2013). Bouchane had 81% farms less than 3 ha, whereas in Mnabha 55% of the farms were less than 4 ha. All Mnabha and 60% of Bouchane’s farms have at least one well, so irrigation water was more limited in Bouchane, where surface irrigation was practiced resulting in wells drying up in summer. Mnabha’s young people use to emigrate to Marrakech for work, men take care of crops and livestock, while women are responsible for the housekeeping and field tasks, such as weeding, harvesting and storage. The communities hence were different, with Bouchane being smaller farms of more family members, and less access to irrigation water.

Cereals are the most important crops in both communities, that is barley and wheat. Cereal-cereal and cereal-fallow rotations were almost the only system practiced. Tillage was mechanized and done generally with disc harrow that opens the soil, increase soil evaporation and reduce soil biological activity and fertility. Seeds are generally locally produced, on farm or from neighbours. Cereal production is mostly organic, as most farmers do not use mineral fertilizer, herbicides or pesticides. They practice manual weeding and supply manure every three-four years. Cereal yield under dryland is normally between 0.3 and 2.5 t ha-1. In the semi-arid site of Bouchane, Morocco, cereal yields were variable between years, and very low the fourth year due to a severe drought, with an average yield of 0.5 t ha-1 for cereal monoculture. Crop growth was so poor that farmers let their sheep in for grazing in early spring. In Bouchane, the risk of drought is high. Wheat yields in Adana, Turkey, were high due to plenty of rain in three years of four.

The effect of the introduction of legumes (chickpea) or a new crop (quinoa) in the crop rotation was compared to wheat monocropping in Turkey and Morocco, and the four-year results revealed a positive impact of crop rotation over monocropping on biomass and soil organic matter in Morocco. Quinoa and chickpea were superior to wheat before wheat with 230% higher yield compared to wheat monocrop (0.5 t/ha). Both break crops caused higher wheat biomass, 80% for chickpea and 60% more for quinoa, compared to 2.23 t/ha for wheat. Significant improvement in yield and soil fertility was demonstrated.

An example of a rotation experiment design is illustrated from Agadir, Morocco (Fig. 5). The climate in Agadir is arid, with precipitation 250 mm. Rainfall occurs mainly during the period from November to March. Irrigation water was treated domestic wastewater, very rich in nitrogen (22 mg/l), with EC 1.3 dS/m and pH 7.6. Most fertilizer requirements of the crop can be covered. In terms of microbiological analysis, the irrigation water complies within the standards of the World Health Organization to be used without restriction, as well as the Moroccan guidelines for irrigation water.

Fig. 5. General rotation scheme in time and space

Management practices

Zero or reduced tillage is believed to have a significantly positive effect on crop productivity in semi-arid areas when water is a limiting factor. Different tillage techniques were compared. In a reduced tillage experiment in wheat, biomass and grain yield were higher than with conventional tillage. Biomass increased from 2 to 2.5 t ha-1, and grain yield from 1.5 to 1.8 t ha-1. Maximum efficiency on wheat production was obtained with minimum and zero-tillage. In Morocco was studied three treatments (direct seeding, cover cropping+ seeder and plow+seeder) with 4 repetitions in a complete random design. Plot size were 6 x 10 m. Results indicate a significant the advantage of direct seeding.

Organic amendment can be the key to compensate the negative effect of drought on crop productivity. Yield response to compost amendment was higher under water deficit conditions than full irrigation. By introducing certified seeds and supplying mineral fertilizer (N, P, K), cereal yield could be doubled. The effect of manure to barley yield and soil fertility was an increase in number of spikes m-2 (345 of the fertilized plot versus 187 in the control), total biomass (4.6 versus 1.9 t ha-1), and grain yield (2.6 versus 1.1 t ha-1). Grain yield increased by 233% supplemented with manure, but the harvest index remained the same (Benlhabib et al. 2013).

The replacement of traditional spring sowing of chickpea with winter sowing is possible with cultivars possessing cold tolerance and resistance to key fungal diseases. Winter planting resulted in almost two fold yield increase as compared to spring planting (mean chickpea yields were 4 t/ha for winter planting, and 2.7 t/ha for spring planting). Amaranth planting in March resulted in significantly higher yields than those planted in May. Quinoa yield was significantly higher when sown in early than late May in Turkey. There was variation for quinoa yield, attributed to differences in crop management. Yield was higher at late (February) than early (November) sowing in Syria, in average 63% higher yield for late sowing. The significant difference in terms of crop yield at different planting dates was due to frost in January (-6 ⁰C).

Pre-sowing seed treatment and seed priming have been used on wheat in order to improve germination both under laboratory and field conditions. According to laboratory and field experiments, PEG application to the seeds of wheat may increase germination.


Many factors affect the sustainability of the cropping system. Crop rotation and reduced tillage were the most important factors, affecting soil fertility, soil texture, soil physical and chemical characteristics, and water status. Rotation experiments showed that combining quinoa with chickpea can reduce the nitrate level in the soil, and that sweet corn with faba bean reduces salt accumulation. Legume-wheat and quinoa-wheat rotations have beneficial effect on soil fertility and sustainability. The crops influence soil nitrogen and EC beside changes in soil structure.

Quinoa could be considered as a favourable break crop for wheat. Quinoa had the lowest nitrate content in the soil, which is a positive feature.

Water use efficient irrigation strategies

The annual climatic variability affect crop yield. Therefore irrigation may be necessary for securing crop production, but water is becoming increasingly scarce, therefore water saving irrigation techniques must be developed.

Supplemental irrigation increased yield and water productivity of legumes in Turkey, Syria, and Portugal. The results revealed that by using a relatively small amount of water for supplemental irrigation under rainfed conditions, farmers in dry areas can get substantial increases in crop yield. Supplemental irrigation of 80 mm increased wheat grain yield 55% compared to rainfed treatment. Seed weight, harvest index and plant height were also significantly increased with supplemental irrigation.

Faba bean accessions responded positively to supplemental irrigation, with 50% of irrigation of soil water capacity being enough to increase the yield to maximum for some accessions. Supplemental irrigation at flowering was shown to have a positive effect on biomass, plant height, and rhizobium weight, with the intensity of the response depending on the accessions.

Chickpea yield increased from 0.74 under rainfed to 3.4 t ha-1 with irrigation in Syria. A comparative study was conducted in Portugal on five varieties chickpea grown under a wet and a dry year with irrigation applied at different levels. The wet year yields of the 5 varieties were generally lower than the dry year yields, although the total amounts of water the crop received from rain+irrigation were comparable. This highlights the importance of irrigation timing; the unpredictable rainfall might not be used efficiently by the plant if it falls in large amounts or at the wrong time. The results indicated that both flowering and grain filling stages were the most sensitive to deficit irrigation while the vegetative growth stage was the most tolerant. The yield response to several drought stress levels equal to 75, 50, 25 and 0% of the full irrigation amount applied during vegetative growth stage showed that applying 25% of full irrigation requirement during vegetative growth stage has not significantly affected sweet corn yield. This means that 75% water saving during the vegetative growth, representing 20% saving of total seasonal water requirement can be achieved without significant reduction in the yield. The results also indicated that organic amendment of 10 and 5 t ha-1 increased sweet corn yield by 15 and 1%, respectively, under full irrigation, and by 10 and 4%, respectively, under deficit irrigation (50% of full irrigation requirement).

Lentil yield ranged from 0.7 to 1.9 t ha-1. Water availability affects both vegetative and reproductive growth of lentils. The response to supplementary irrigation depends on the accessions and year, that is total rainfall during the season and its distribution. The increase in seed yield for irrigation is 13-37%. Accessions ILL 590, ILL 6002, ILL7537, ILL8068, ILL10135, ILL10072 and ILL 10707 responded positively to irrigation, whereas others (ILL6994, ILL7670, ILL7947 and ILL19691) barely responded. ILL 7537 (1190 kg/ha) and ILL 10707 (1160 kg/ha) were the top yielders under irrigated conditions. In general, high yielding accessions had lower response to supplementary irrigation as compared to low yielders. Also, small seeded genotypes responded more positively to irrigation than genotypes with larger seeds.

Quinoa is a drought tolerant crop, so irrigation is normally not necessary. However, quinoa is able to produce a higher, more stable yield when grown in dry areas with a minimum of water supplied at flowering. With low organic matter in the soil, quinoa sown at 1 m row spacing and some water supplied through drip irrigation can secure good productivity.

Quinoa and amaranth were irrigated with saline water with increasing electrical conductivity (EC), and the results revealed that quinoa can be irrigated with saline water up to 30 dS/m without significant yield reduction in Turkey, Italy and Morocco. Irrigation water salinity greater than 30 dS/m resulted in soil degradation due to soil dispersion. Irrigation water salinity reduced water uptake due to increased osmotic effect in the soil solution leading to decrease in biomass production and water productivity; Quinoa irrigation with drainage water is possible without any detrimental effect on yield and environment.

Deficit irrigation showed considerable potential to increase water productivity and yield. A deficit irrigation experiment on quinoa in Marrakech, Morocco, showed that there was only 15% yield reduction when quinoa received 50% of its total water requirement. This means a water saving of 50% with only 15% reduction in yield (Fguire et al. 2013. In a study in Agadir, Morocco on five accessions of quinoa, using deficit irrigation, the results indicated some variations among the accessions with a reduction in yield varying from 9 to 49% when applying 50% of the crop water requirement. This result is of great help to the farmers to guide them to select an accession with a drought tolerance that suits their region. The vegetative growth stage of quinoa is the most tolerant to drought stress, and flowering and grain filling stages the most sensitive.

The performance of a small runoff-basin (micro-catchment) water-harvesting system (negarim) was evaluated under an arid environment in Southeastern Anatolia region of Turkey during 2010-2012. Plastic cover generated the highest runoff as compared to other surface treatments, the pistachio trees performed better (maximum tree height, trunk diameter, and tree crown volume) in the plastic covered negarim plots, followed by surface compaction.

Sustainable field applicability

The environmental effects were assessed by monitoring groundwater quality and level. Soil related parameters were evaluated such as salinity, sodicity, hydraulic properties, and organic matter content. The impact of treated wastewater was evaluated monitoring the levels of potential contaminants (nitrate, metals) in surface and groundwater as well as indicator pathogens. Barriers such as legal issues for the use of the combination of marginal-quality water and the improved irrigation systems and other agronomic strategies, as well as crop species and varieties with improved tolerance to multiple abiotic stresses, were identified and discussed with key stakeholders. The environmental impact assessment of the introduced interventions has lead to the development of guidelines for best practices to avoid adverse impacts. The financial implications for the farmer, and the economic costs and benefits for the food sector, were analysed.

Irrigation strategies

Supplemental irrigation

Application of small amounts of water as supplemental irrigation at critical crop growth stages under rainfed conditions has the potential to cause significant increase in crop production and crop water productivity. However, there may be implications on long-term water balance in the area if water used for supplemental irrigation far exceeds the amount of water recharge. In addition, there may be effects on soil characteristics such as soil salinity, particularly when marginal-quality water is available for supplemental irrigation.

To evaluate the effects of supplemental irrigation using drainage canal water, field experiments were carried out in 2009-2012 with wheat and quinoa. In Turkey, the electrical conductivity (EC) of drainage water was 0.57-1.69 dS m-1 during the experimental period. The following supplemental irrigation treatments using drainage water were applied: (1) Irrig-1: 86 mm; (2) Irrig-2: 67 mm; (3) Irrig-3: 44 mm; (4) Irrig-4: 21 mm; and Irrig-5: rainfed. Pre-experiment soil EC in the top 30 cm depth was 1.15 dS m-1, which did not change much in the deeper layers. In the post-experiment soil samples, there was an increase in soil EC in the treatment where supplemental irrigation was 86 mm (Irrig-1). The increase in this treatment resulted from salts added through drainage water used for irrigation. The smallest increase in soil EC was when a minimum amount of water (21 mm) was used for supplemental irrigation. The results of this study reveal that drainage water can be used for irrigation of wheat and quinoa. Winter rainfall in the area can provide water to leach out the salts from the soil profile to minimize salt accumulation during crop growing season. However, in the long run, there would be a need for periodic monitoring of salinity build-up in the soil to avoid soil degradation and crop yield loss. In case of soil EC reaching high levels, there would be need for applying leaching irrigation to push the salts accumulated in the root zone to deeper soil layers.

There is trade-off between the amount of water used for supplemental irrigation and the additional yield harvested of a crop above the rainfed conditions. In the case of faba bean, two supplemental irrigation levels were used: 50% supplemental irrigation and 100% supplemental irrigation (irrigation to meet the crop water requirement). Based on the two-year average data for faba bean yield and supplemental irrigation treatments, it is interesting to note that there was 77% increase in faba bean yield (2900 kg/ha) with 50% supplemental irrigation over the rainfed treatment (1635 kg/ha), i.e. an increase of 1265 kg/ha over rainfed treatment (Fig.6). However, in the case of 100% supplemental irrigation, the yield was not increased by the same factor as the yield increase over the 50% supplemental irrigation was 469 kg/ha and 1734 kg/ha over the rainfed treatment. These results reveal that by using relatively less amount of water for supplemental irrigation under rainfed conditions, farmers in dry areas can get substantial increases in faba bean yield. Although similar trends were observed for other food legume crops, chickpea and lentil, the data from the final year is being processed. A complete report along with data will be prepared for the final report of the project.

Fig.6. Tradeoff between faba bean yield and supplemental irrigation under the dry rainfed areas in the Mediterranean region. Two supplemental irrigation treatments were used: 50% supplemental irrigation and 100% supplemental irrigation.

Deficit irrigation

While deficit irrigation can result in higher levels of crop water productivity than full irrigation under similar agro-climatic conditions, the impacts of deficit irrigation need to be evaluated through soil salinity monitoring, as salts in upper layers of the soil may accumulate due to lack of the leaching of salts. A field experiment was undertaken in Turkey to evaluate a range of deficit irrigation treatments on quinoa growth and yield, and implications for soil salinity build-up. Based on the assessment of soil EC under different deficit irrigation treatments after crop harvest, a linear relationship between soil salinity build-up and irrigation water salinity was found. Salt accumulation was greatest in top soil layer where highly saline water (30 dS m-1) was used for irrigation. Contrary to this, deficit irrigation with freshwater did not cause significant increase in soil EC as compared to initial soil EC. In general, soil EC levels in all treatments were higher (3.34 dS m-1) in the top soil layer (0-10 cm) and decreased in the following pattern: 2.56 dS m-1 at 10-20 cm; 0.98 dS m-1 at 20-40 cm; and 0.44 dS m-1 at 40-60 cm depths. Even when sown in winter, leaching irrigation is needed on top of winter rainfall to maintain salt balance and leach salts accumulated in the root zone. This pattern of salt build-up necessitates the application of leaching irrigation to maintain salt balance and leach salts accumulated in the root zone.

A field experiment on deficit irrigation with treated wastewater was undertaken in Agadir, Morocco. Quinoa, faba bean and sweet corn were applied deficit irrigation during the vegetative growth stage, while rest of the crop growth period relied on full irrigation, except for rainfed treatment. Aggregated changes in soil EC over two seasons revealed differences in soil salinity after different crops, with an increase in soil EC after quinoa of 53% above the initial soil EC, whereas in faba bean the increase was 11%. In case of nitrate (NO3) accumulation in post-harvest soil samples, there was an increase in soil NO3 levels after harvest under quinoa, sweet corn, and chickpea. The results of this study demonstrated the need for consistent monitoring of soil EC to avoid its excessive build-up, and assessment of NO3 levels to make best use of the nitrogen added through treated wastewater while adjusting the nitrogen fertilizer dose based on the available soil NO3.

Saline water irrigation

In a multi-year study undertaken at two sites (Raqqa and Hassake) within Euphrates Basin in Syria, we aimed at evaluating the potential of saline water irrigation for food legume (chickpea, faba bean, and lentil) production and its implications on soil salinity build-up. With 15 accessions each of lentil and chickpea and 11 accessions of faba bean, three irrigation treatments at each site were used. At Hassake site, the treatments (Irrig-1, Irrig-2, and Irrig-3) had EC levels of 0.87 2.50 and 3.78 dS m-1 while the respective EC levels in irrigation water treatments at Raqqa site were 0.70 3.0 and 5.0 dS m-1. Irrigation with different levels of saline water did not cause significant increase in soil salinity build-up. A small and insignificant accumulation of salt in the soil profile can be attributed to the leaching fraction along with irrigation water application. The soil salinity levels of the experimental field after harvest of food legumes did not go above the critical level of 4 dS m-1, a value above which soils are categorized as saline soils. Saline water irrigation of food legumes with water of up to 4 dS/m did not increase soil salinity significantly. However, further increase in irrigation water salinity caused a significant increase in soil salinity. There were negative implications for salinity build up in the soil because of less water availability for leaching of salts added via irrigation with saline water. This was particularly important when deficit irrigation was undertaken with water of higher salinity. There is a need for consistent monitoring of salinity build-up in soils under supplemental, deficit, and full irrigation systems, particularly when waters of marginal quality such as wastewater and saline water are used for irrigation.

In terms of crop salt tolerance, there were large differences among food legume accessions to tolerate irrigation water salinity. On average, faba bean was found to withstand relatively high levels of irrigation water salinity followed by lentil and chickpea. The results of this multi-location study reveal that irrigation with saline water can be undertaken provided there is appropriate integration of on-farm soil and water management practices such as leaching of salts from the root zone and use of salt-tolerant food legume cultivars, which can withstand higher levels of irrigation water and soil salinity. These results are expected to help extension workers and farmers in making informed decisions in selecting appropriate food legume and crop accessions based on their salinity tolerance for the water available as an irrigation source. In addition, they will have relevant information available on the amount of water to be added as leaching fraction on top of crop water requirement.

Fig.7 Accumulation of salts the soil profile on 10 June 2011 as affected by deficit and full irrigation treatments and water quality at the Research Station of the Department of Irrigation and Agricultural Structures, Çukurova University, Adana

Accumulation of salts in the soil profile was estimated on 10 June (Fig.7). The highest level of soil salinity was measured in the top 10 cm soil layer. Salt accumulation in general decreased with soil depth. The build-up of salinity and irrigation water salinity were directly proportional, i.e. the higher the irrigation water salinity the greater the soil salinity. Deficit irrigation with water of 40 dS/m resulted in the highest salt accumulation in the top soil layer.

Wastewater irrigation

In several peri-urban areas of the Mediterranean region, irrigation with untreated, inadequately treated or diluted wastewater is common owing to the limited availability of freshwater and year round supply of wastewater. Wastewater use in such forms can pose the public health and the environment to significant risk when not managed properly. During the years 2009-2011, we assessed the temporal and spatial variation in the quality of wastewater flowing through Qweik River, wastewater carrier of Aleppo, Syria. We also assessed soil nutrients, soil salinity and sodicity levels, and heavy metal concentrations, and compared metal concentrations with those found in freshwater-irrigated soils nearby the study area. There was small spatial variation in the analyzed indicators in the wastewater flowing through Qweik River. The river carried high nutrient loads and high levels of coliform bacteria. Soil EC levels were low and soil nutrient concentrations had adequate levels. In terms of heavy metal concentrations, irrigation water had chromium levels as high as 0.3 mg L-1. Wastewater irrigated soils contained significantly higher chromium and zinc levels than freshwater irrigated soils. These results revealed that although the use of untreated, inadequately treated, or diluted wastewater for agriculture in dry areas of the region has potential benefits in the form of savings on fertilizer use, enhanced farm-level income, and year-round employment opportunities, there are environmental risks associated with such practice.

The study on groundwater quality and implications of wastewater irrigation on water and soil quality was carried out in the same area around Aleppo (Fig. 8). Several field campaigns were undertaken to collect groundwater samples to characterize the impacts of wastewater reuse. Salinity and NO3 levels were found to be high; salinity increased progressively towards south of the Qweik River Basin, reaching up to 10 dS m-1. In the case of total nitrogen, the values in the aquifer were around 63 mg L-1 with some hotspots where the concentrations reached as high as 200 mg L-1. Among the heavy metals, the concentrations of Cu, Cd, and Cr in aquifer water were well above the WHO guidelines. The origin of these metals in the groundwater is possibly linked to the textile industry in the area and reuse of untreated, inadequately treated, or diluted wastewater for agriculture.

Fig.8 Heavy metal concentrations (mg L-1) in the study area; coloration of the dots is based on the WHO 2006 guidelines for irrigation purposes

In a survey study in the same area in peri-urban Aleppo where the above studies were undertaken, we investigated health implications of wastewater irrigation on children (8-12 years). Six villages were selected within wastewater-irrigated area and six from freshwater-irrigated area. In consultation with the health officials and medical practitioners, two waterborne diseases (typhoid fever and gastroenteritis) and three non-waterborne diseases (flu, chickenpox, and strep throat) were selected along with eczema that may stem from water or non-water sources. Gastroenteritis and eczema had significantly higher prevalence rates in wastewater-irrigated area than freshwater-irrigated area. The prevalence rates of typhoid and chickenpox in both areas were low with non-significant differences between freshwater and wastewater areas. The annual health cost per child was 73% higher in wastewater area than for the same age group in freshwater area (Table 2). These findings suggest the need for hygiene education and an action plan that would help in improving water quality and promoting the use of protective measures in handling wastewater and its products.

Table 2 Estimated annual health cost per child, estimated standard error (ESE), level of significance (p-value) and 95% confidence intervals (Lower and Upper) for health cost in the wastewater- and freshwater-irrigated areas

Cost type Water type Cost (US$) a ESE Lower Upper

Physician cost Freshwater 12.3 1.76 8.9 15.7
Wastewater 23.0 1.76 19.5 26.4
p-value b < 0.001
Medicine cost Freshwater 26.4 1.64 23.2 29.7
Wastewater 44.1 1.64 40.9 47.3
p-value b < 0.001
Total cost Freshwater 38.7 2.95 33.0 44.5
Wastewater 67.1 2.95 61.3 72.8
p-value b < 0.001

a Health costs converted from Syrian Pound (SP) to US dollars are based on the currency exchange rate (US$ 1 = 46 SP) in the year 2010 when the survey study was undertaken
b p-value is probability of observing more extreme than their observed difference in the health costs under freshwater and wastewater situations when there is no difference in their true health costs

A field study was undertaken in Agadir, Morocco to assess the environmental implications of introducing amaranth and quinoa in the cropping system. The source of irrigation water was treated wastewater augmented with seawater to develop three water quality levels in terms of salt concentration, i.e. EC1 (0.92 dS m-1) as control, EC3 (3 dS m-1) and EC6 (6 dS m-1). The levels of soil salinity were significantly different under three quinoa varieties. In the case of amaranth accessions, there were increased levels of soil NO3 and EC as a result of irrigation with saline wastewater rich in nitrogen. The treatment with the highest salt concentration in irrigation water (6 dS m-1) had the highest accumulation of NO3 and salts. In terms of NO3 accumulation, increasing salinity of irrigation water affected negatively nitrogen uptake and other nutrients leading to more accumulation of NO3 in the soil. The results of this study suggest the need for salinity management in soils while irrigating with saline wastewater. This could be achieved through applying an additional amount of water above crop water requirement, known as leaching requirement, to move the excessive amount of salts in the deeper soil layers.

When using untreated, inadequately treated, or diluted wastewater for agriculture, there is a need to assess environmental and health risks while having potential benefits in the form of savings on fertilizer use, enhanced farm-level income, and year-round employment opportunities.

Modeling water, crop and soil management

The SALTMED model has been undergoing several developments. In comparison with the early version (Ragab, 2002), the current version, SALTMED 2013, includes the following new sub-models: crop growth according to degree days, crop rotations, nitrogen dynamics, soil temperature, dry matter and marketable yield, subsurface irrigation, deficit irrigation including Partial Root Drying (PRD), drainage flow to tile or open drain systems, presence of shallow groundwater, evapotranspiration using Penman-Monteith equation with different options to obtain the canopy conductance (from abscisic acid (ABA) concentration and leaf water potential, obtained from environmental parameters, direct measurements and estimated values). The model now accounts for environmental stresses such as temperature (heat, cold), CO2 level, water logging, soil oxygen level, nitrogen level, salinity level and drought. New options to allow different drought stress levels for growth stages were added. The current version allows up to 20 fields or treatments to run simultaneously. In addition, a new database with the data input (irrigation, climate, fertilizers) and parameters of soils and crops of the SWUP-MED project such as quinoa, amaranth, chickpea, lentils, faba bean, sweet corn and sweet pepper have been established. A new user’s guide has been produced, and together with the model software including the database are available for distribution from the project web site.

Quinoa, sweet corn and chickpea, were subjected to drought stress at different growth stages in Morocco. The results showed that the yield was not affected when the drought stress took place during the vegetative growth stage. The study also showed the ability of the SALTMED model to distinguish between C3 crops (quinoa and chickpea) and C4 crops (sweet corn) and being able to account for the differences in photosynthesis efficiency between C4 and C3 crops.

The model was successfully employed to quantify the threshold salinity levels for several crops and salinity levels. Moreover, the model was successfully applied to assess the impact of deficit irrigation, wastewater and organic matter amendments on yield response. In addition, the model has also been applied successfully to study the impact of different crop rotations on crop response. More details are given in the work package report.

The SALTMED model has the facility to allow crops to grow according to the number of heat units or degree days. This is of particular interest for climate change impact studies. Two studies were carried out in that respect, one in Italy and one in Morocco. In Morocco, the simulations with the SALTMED model were carried out using calibrated and validated data of sweet corn. For the crop growth model, the degree days with fixed sowing date and simulated harvest date option has been adopted. The SALTMED model was run with crop rotations with 6 periods corresponding to 2015, 2020, 2030, 2050, 2075 and 2090. The results showed differences between years, and showed an earlier harvest date and shorter growing season as we move from 2015 to 2090 in response to increasing temperature due to climate change. The simulation results also showed that from 2020 to 2075 there will be a decrease in terms of total produced dry matter and yield. The results indicated that starting from 2015 to 2090 a reduction in growing period length of about 20 days could take place as a result of increased temperature. The evapotranspiration and potential crop transpiration have shown to increase over the years in response to climate change. In a climate change study in Italy, the SALTMED model was employed to simulate the productivity of amaranth A12 under different climate scenarios for the periods 2050 and 2095. The simulations were carried out using the crop calibrated data of amaranth. The simulations with possible scenarios of future climate change were performed considering changes in temperature. Three future climate scenarios were considered for 2050 and 2095 periods. The scenarios were based on outputs of 6 General Circulation Models, GCMs. The simulation were performed using temperature data generated from GCMs and the SALTMED model option of variable sowing and harvest date. The SALTMED model indicated that the length of the amaranth growing season will decrease from 114 days under actual (2009-2010) climatic conditions to 98 days for the high emission scenarios in 2095. SALTMED indicated also that it is possible to expect a change in amaranth sowing date from the day of the year (DOY) 100 under actual conditions to the DOY 86 by 2095. The use of GCM and SALTMED produced information on crop growth stage length and the relative yield for future climatic scenarios so this approach represents a useful decision system for sustainable agronomic management.

Research synthesis in dialogue with food sector

Important deliverables of the project are crop, field and water management tools for end-users in the agricultural and irrigation sector, and for the environmental sector and water policy planners. SWUP-MED comprises a range of subjects that are of general interest to the public, such as food and water resources. Most of the research has been performed in a participatory manner, involving farmers and their communities directly in the work, and in addition has been undertaken constant interaction with stakeholders, such as private companies and governmental bodies, for mutual benefit.

Market is growing for a range of new crops, which provide great potential for introduction and production in the Mediterranean countries. New crops were analysed regarding market and social acceptance. Especially quinoa is promising, and is already being established in Morocco, and market surveys for the new crops are being conducted, nationally and regionally.

Guidelines and recommendations for the food sector based on field results, surveys and modelling, have been developed as a farmers' application tool for optimising irrigation management schemes, and other agronomic practices optimizing yield, quality and water use efficiency, as well as selection of adequate crops for the farming system. The model will be used to analyse results of the project, and designed to assist farmers and decision makers in the future to better be able to understand the effects of a changing climate, of multiple abiotic stresses, and tools to combat this, applying both agronomic measures and genetic improvement. The project website was ready at an early stage both for beneficiaries to present results and keep up to date with other parts of the programme, and to provide a focus and point of contact for interested outside parties.

Final Conference Agadir 2013 Quinoa products, Morocco Couscous from quinoa

Difficulties and recommendations

Farmers’ field trials are less accurate than studies from experimental stations, but are essential for technology transfer. Experimental data from farmers’ fields are difficult to compare.

Newly introduced crop data are not accurate since farmers are not familiar with the species, and crop management is different to the growers in other countries. Variation in yield was mainly caused by poor plant establishment. The effect of supplemental irrigation depends on rainfall which cannot be controlled in farmers’ fields. In Turkey there were no requirements for irrigation for three growing seasons, due to sufficient precipitation in the growing season. Genotypes from chickpea, faba bean and lentil were characterized morphological and physiologically, but the molecular characterization caused problems, however data has been achieved.

Water harvesting and zero-tillage studies were considered late in the project. Seed treatment study was only done for wheat.

There have been delays on deliverable 5.1. A number of changes on the management side were made in WP5 leading to change of WP leader. The overall objectives, however, remain the same but a set of new deliverables have been made to fulfill the objectives.

Rotation trials should be carried out on long term basis with soil biological, physical and humidity monitoring to detect the evolution of the cropping system.

In the Mediterranean climate, due to its large inter-annual variability, it is important to use genotypes that can cope with different types of environment, such as humid and dry, and not only the ones which can stand very adverse climate. These ones will be very much penalized in wet years because they are far from the yield potential for that crop. Earliness together with yield, were the most important traits to discriminate genotypes and relatively easy to use to support selection.

Among new crops quinoa showed a large potential for growing under abiotic stress conditions, with higher economic and water saving values of grain and straw yields in new reclaimed sandy soils, as compared to the results of wheat grain and straw yields. The introduction of 10% quinoa in mixtures with rice or maize showed a composition comparable to the commercial pasta gluten-free, with great potential to develop new quality products for celiac consumers.


As stress factors often act together, it is important to focus on multiple stresses affecting the crop, instead of looking at the individual stress separated from the rest. The rainfed farming systems are the most important in the Mediterranean countries. The question is how abiotic stresses can be overcome. First step is by using different crops of varying drought and salinity tolerance, and utilizing their stress adaptation mechanisms to optimize crop productivity. Supplemental irrigation used as deficit irrigation has the potential to overcome periods of low rainfall or high temperatures.

Improvements in crop production may arise from several strategies such as early sowing enabled by minimum tillage, increased use of organic manure, and an efficient weed control. Further, crop rotations will play an important role in improving weed control, minimizing disease risk, and increasing nutrient availability. Introduction of drought and salt tolerant crop species such as quinoa and amaranth may result in more resilient crop rotations and high value cash crop products. Yield increases may arise from selection for early vigour, deep roots, increased transpiration efficiency, improved disease resistance, and high assimilate storage and remobilization. A range of crop and management strategies might be combined for a specific target environment in order to optimize crop productivity. These combinations can then be used as a guidance to future decision support systems for crop production at limited water supply under arid Mediterranean conditions.

The findings indicate that farmers are able to cultivate new crops like quinoa in the semi-arid Mediterranean region and that it may be possible to sell quinoa and possibly a similar crop like amaranth at the domestic market. However, new crops must add value to the existing farming systems in competition with established cropping systems in an economic viable crop rotation. A number of institutional- and market barriers as well as support schemes are likely to have an impact on the market as well as the field level for new crops.

Considering the existing mono-cropping systems in the Mediterranean region, three food legume crops (chickpea, faba bean, and lentil) and two new crops (quinoa and amaranth) showed potential to integrate and improve overall agricultural productivity and soil quality. These results are expected to help extension workers and farmers in making informed decisions in selecting appropriate food legume and new crops for developing site-specific crop rotations.

Legumes were affected by terminal drought, so earliness was an important character to consider. Earliness was an important trait to discriminate genotypes. In the Mediterranean climate, due to its large inter-annual variability, it is important to identify genotypes that can cope with different types of environment, both wet and dry. Drought tolerant genotypes will be penalized in wet years because they are far from the yield potential for that crop. Supplemental irrigation at flowering had a positive effect on increasing biomass, plant height and Rhizobium weight, with response depending on genotype.

Faba bean can tolerate higher levels of irrigation water salinity than chickpea and lentil.

In the case of using untreated, inadequately treated, or diluted wastewater for agriculture, there is a need to assess environmental and health risks while having potential benefits in the form of savings on fertilizer use, enhanced farm-level income, and year-round employment opportunities. In addition, hygiene education and an action plan would help in improving water quality and promoting the use of protective measures in handling wastewater and its products.

Using treated wastewater can be a valid option, reducing fresh water and nutrient requirements, but it must be used adequately, as soil EC increased for all tested crops when using treated wastewater for irrigation.

Agricultural drainage water can be used for irrigation of wheat and quinoa. However, in the long run, there is a need for monitoring salinity build-up in the soil to avoid soil degradation and crop yield loss. In case of soil EC reaching high levels, irrigation for leaching should be applied to push the salts accumulated in the root zone to deeper soil layers.

While deficit irrigation can result in higher levels of crop water productivity than full irrigation under similar agro-climatic conditions, the impacts of deficit irrigation need to be evaluated through soil salinity monitoring as salts in upper layers of the soil may accumulate due to lack of the leaching of salts added via deficit irrigation water.

Irrigation with saline water for legumes (chickpea, faba bean, and lentil) can be undertaken provided there is an appropriate integration of soil and water management practices such as leaching of salts from the root zone and use of salt-tolerant food legume cultivars, which can withstand higher levels of irrigation water and soil salinity. Amaranth and especially quinoa can tolerate salinity levels up to seawater strengths.

SALTMED model proved to be a useful tool in deciding the best water, soil, crop and field management that could minimize the input, maximize the profit and safeguard the environment. It can provide information on crop growth stage length and the relative yield for future climatic scenarios so this approach represents a useful decision system for sustainable agronomic management. In addition, when applied using deferent water salinity levels, waste water, deficit irrigation, organic matter, different crop rotations, the model showed its potential as a field management tool.

In Fig. 9 is seen the philosophy of acting towards a range of increasingly important abiotic stresses, all influenced by climate changes, in a concerted way. We have suggested new strategies with respect to the crops to be used, and the way the crops are included in the cropping systems, applying different marginal water sources to the crops in the most, water use efficient way.

Fig. 9 A schematic presentation of crop and resource management under the influence of multiple, environmental constraints (Jacobsen et al., 2012)

References (not in template A1)

Lefèvre, I., Gratia, E., Lutts, S., 2001. Discrimination between the ionic and osmotic components of salt stress in relation to free polyamine level in rice (Oryza sativa). Plant Sci. 161, 943–952.

Munns, R., 2002. Comparative physiology of salt and water stress. Plant Cell Environ. 25, 239–250. Munns, R., 2005. Genes and salt tolerance: bringing them together. New Phytol. 167, 645–663.

Potential Impact:

Potential impact and dissemination

Part of the project entails a study of social and economic factors affecting farmers´ acceptance to adopt proposed farming systems and new crops. This study helps to provide an understanding of the conditions for effective and long-term impacts on farming systems and ensure implementation of new sustainable strategies. The project furthermore identified institutional and market barriers on farming systems, new crops, water saving and food-safety.

Socio economic country studies

Country specific socio-economic conditions for farming system in the Mediterranean partner countries (MPCs) have been identified. The cost and benefits and net return were examined for selected crop production (wheat, barley, chickpea, and quinoa). Thus, a comparison of various crops is drawn based on the following criteria: production cost per ha and per ton, rate of return/cost, net return/ton product, net return euro investment, return on euro spent on manpower, and net return per ton of water unit (m3). Solutions are proposed for selected crops depending on two criteria:

• The Standard Of The Relative Advantage;
• Standard of Food Security in MPCs;

The economic efficiency has been examined for different crops through a range of indicators. The first indicator, net returns per ton, showed that the net return per ton of quinoa production in Egypt is high compared to wheat, barley, and chickpeas. Morocco and Syria were better in the net return per ton of barley product, if compared to various types of wheat (irrigated, rain fed) and quinoa. Turkey has shown an increase in net return per ton of wheat production.

For the second indicator, rate of return/costs, Egypt and Syria were found to have high rate of return on costs in the yield of quinoa compared to wheat, barley, and chickpeas. Yet, Morocco, Turkey, and Portugal revealed high rate of return on costs in irrigated wheat compared to other cereals. Italy is moderate in this indicator in the production of irrigated wheat in comparison to other MPCs.

Concerning the third indicator, net return investment, spent on manpower, Egypt and Syria have high production of quinoa, compared to wheat, barley, and chickpeas. Morocco, Turkey, and Portugal are progressed in the yield of irrigated wheat, when compared with net income spent on manpower in rain fed wheat, barley, and quinoa. Italy is moderate in this indicator in the production of irrigated wheat in comparison to other MPCs.

In the fourth indicator, net return per ton of water unit (m 3), it is shown that Egypt Portugal, and Turkey has the highest net return in the production of chickpeas compared to other cereals. Italy has the minimum score in this indicator in respect to irrigated wheat production, if compared to other MPCs.

Farm level analysis

Studies were related to farm economic potential and consequences of introduction of a new crop (quinoa), drip irrigation and no till in a semiarid Mediterranean environment as studies of the basic response of quinoa to water and nitrogen. Yield response of quinoa to nitrogen and water under Mediterranean environment was analysed (Ørum et al. 2013). This study is based on literature review as well as Moroccan, Syrian and Egyptian field and greenhouse experiments. Quinoa responds significantly to nitrogen fertilizer and irrigation. The full potential is however not yet investigated or reported in literature. Quinoa was analysed as a new crop, and drip irrigation as a new technology in a Mediterranean crop rotation experienced by farmers in Bouchane community (Morocco). Main findings and conclusions as follows:

The main part of the arable land in Bouchane is grown with rainfed winter cereals (wheat, durum wheat and barley). Due to low and varying precipitation (<300 mm a year) proper wheat yields are limited to every fourth or fifth year. In other years, the fields may not be harvested but grazed by sheep and goats. On farms having a well, a small part of the land, typically 1 ha close to the well, is irrigated (flooded) and reserved for vegetables and other high value spring crops.

The new crops introduced to Bouchane by the project, quinoa and chickpeas respectively, have the potential to improve drought tolerance and soil fertility of the rainfed land. The new crops have been tested on several farms. For several reasons, however, the new crops have ended up as high value crops in the irrigated parts of a few farms.

Problems for crop production in Bouchane was identified: 1) Soil moisture in spring is very low, 2) Lacking a tillage system to preserve soil water and weeding 3) No developed sowing technique (hand, broad caste, rows and machine), and 4) Harvesting done by hand. For quinoa washing out saponin, to make quinoa marketable, is water and time consuming.

Some of the problems and needs could ideally be solved by introduction of winter varieties, reduced tillage methods, research, local experiments, local extension capacity, and simply by giving more time for farmers to develop the best cropping practices. First of all the new crops must be profitable to grow, either because of their nutritional value, their marketable value, yield stabilizing effect, soil improving effect, or water saving effect. So far the new crops introduced by the project are just found profitable to grow on the irrigated land as another, new cash crop.

As a part of the “Maroc Verte” program, investments in drip irrigation is heavily supported. Under a certain scheme depending on the size. Usually 100 % full support up until 5 ha of irrigated land is supported. Farmers are allowed to use water as they like and to irrigate whatever crop they like, but they will need a permission to establish new wells.

Several survey farms have recently received the “Maroc Vert” support for drip irrigation. This has increased their irrigated land from approximately 1 to 5 ha by using the same amount of water. As a consequence the production of vegetables and other cash crops have increased, and at the same time farmers have become less dependent of the rainfed cereals and the livestock production. Consequently more farmers are likely to establish their own or an extra well, exploiting ground water faster and more efficiently than before.

Potential market for new products

Four studies were conducted to assess the market acceptance and management practices of new crops in the Mediterranean region, in particular Turkey and Morocco.

Both areas, Adana in Turkey and Bouchane community in Morcooc, are located in semi-arid regions and close to the European market. The studies differ in the sense that farmers have already been introduced to quinoa in the Bouchane region whereas farmers in Adana had little prior knowledge to this new crop.

A combination of interviews and a survey of 92 farmers have been conducted in the Adana-region, Turkey, which addresses questions as: Farmers interest in new crops, factors that are important for adopting new crops, and expected prices and yield compared to other crops.

Specifically, an analysis is undertaken with the aim of identifying attributes (cluster analysis) of different farm groups according to their perceptions of new crops on their fields. Special focus was put on quinoa as a salt and drought tolerant crop. Findings from these studies and interviews with farmers show that farmers in Adana had little, if any knowledge about quinoa. Many farmers indicate that when they consider the introduction of a new crop in their production system, they make a comparison analysis between the crops that they already produce and the new crop. They look at the market availability, product prices, yield, production cost and ease of production. A number of farmers perceive quinoa as a likely crop to be included in their crop rotation if the current prices can be obtained on the market. A segment of mainly young and educated farmers have an interest to introduce the new crops in their crop rotation.

In Bouchane community in Morocco, a combination of interviews and a survey of farmers have been conducted on the same questions: Factors that are important for adopting new crops here are expected prices and yields compared to other crops. Firstly, 24 farmers were interviewed in the region followed by interviews of 42 farmers. In this region several farmers already have experience with quinoa, which have been introduced to them in 2009 from the SWUPMED project.

Statistical analyses are used to describe and categorize farmers according to structural and socio-economic characteristics and perceptions. Specifically, cluster analysis is undertaken with the aim of identifying attributes of different farm groups according to their perceptions of new crops on their fields. In summary, the main conclusion is that without a market farmers are not likely to start or continue producing any kind of crop even with good field conditions.

Fig. 10 Potential supply chain for Quinoa in Morocco

Institutional barriers for producing and cultivating new crops

In this part we have described the Moroccan supply-chain and potential barriers for introducing a new crop into the marketing chain. Moroccan agriculture is relatively advanced with a supply chain capable of meeting the requirements and standards needed to export to the EU-market for a number of agricultural products, which Morocco has cultivated for a long time. This institutional set-up provides a basis for introducing a new crop that has benefits related to problems faced by Moroccan farmers and potentially could contribute with a higher-value product for Moroccan exports as well as a protein-rich commodity for domestic consumers.

The development of the Moroccan domestic market towards a larger share for large supermarket chains puts strict requirements on farmers in terms of quality, quantity and timeliness of supplies. Local markets, souks, are not expected to present similar obstacles although knowledge of the crop and acceptability of the same by domestic consumers need to be considered.

Export markets, particularly the EU, enforces rigid standards and requirements that have been met by Moroccan exporters on a number of products, particularly fruits and vegetables but also traditional cereals. Thus, the basic institutions in the supply-chain are in place. Introducing a new crop into the export supply-chain comes with a number of challenges in addition to the need to create a market for quinoa among European costumers and retailers. Experiences from other African countries that have been successful in creating a market in the EU for specialised products are related to the situation in Morocco.

Results reveal that the market for a specialized product like quinoa is able to provide profitable opportunities for the Moroccan agricultural sector and supply-chain (Fig. 10).

We have finally studied the determinants of intermediaries’ power over farmers’ margin related activities, in Turkey. The methodology used to understand the phenomenon of power in this research is a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods. The results of the quantitative analysis indicates that the power of the intermediaries’ over farmers’ activities can be explained from five sets of main characteristics: product, industry, relationship, farmers’ and farmers’ access to resources. Furthermore, the analysis of the qualitative data showed that intermediaries, due to their power, employ a number of supply chain practices that transfer to farmers’ excessive risks and unexpected costs. These risks and costs compromise farmers’ business position, struggling to keep up a profitable business. Therefore, we argue that a balance of power needs to be established between farmers-intermediaries, which should lead not only to improved farmers business position but also to increased efficiency of the supply chain.

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