Since the introduction of modern drip irrigation systems at a desert kibbutz in the early 1960s by water engineer Simcha Blass, Israel has emerged as one of the most climate-smart agricultural regions in the world.
To get a first-hand look at the innovative irrigation and planting strategies and technologies, Almond Board of California (ABC) Director of Agricultural Affairs Bob Curtis and almond farmer Don Cameron of Terranova Farms joined a recent California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) delegation to Israel.
“This was a great opportunity to learn more about how Israel’s water sustainability efforts could apply to California agriculture including almond orchards,” Curtis said, noting the ABC’s Accelerated Innovation Management initiatives focus on similar approaches to advancing water efficiency and sustainability.
Their travels in Israel included a trip to Netafim, the irrigation technology company in the Negev Desert founded in 1965 by drip system creator Blass and the Kibbutz Halzerim. The company also does business in California, where more than 70 percent of almond farmers now use drip and microsprinkler irrigation, helping to reduce the water needed to grow a pound of almonds by 33 percent in the last 20 years1.
The delegates also visited Rootility, a startup plant breeding company that developed a new way to give plants heartier root systems. It does this with a conditions simulation system focused on improving a plant’s resilience to extreme temperature, drought and salinity. The better a plant’s roots, the better it can use water and nutrients, improving resistance to stressful conditions. The company also has a California presence.
According to CDFA Secretary Karen Ross, who led the 18-member delegation, California can learn a lot from Israel’s technological innovations, efficient irrigation, recycled water, and plant breeding for drought conditions and salinity.
“It all works,” she said, noting that innovation and technology have helped Israel move from water scarcity to water security. “They believe this is due in large part to the focus on agriculture. The country is able to produce most of the food it requires to feed its citizens, yet its per-capita water use is only one-third of California’s. Eighty-five percent of the country’s wastewater is recycled for agricultural use, compared to just 9.5 percent in California.”
Curtis said the delegation visit clearly demonstrated that farmers in California have much in common with their counterparts in Israel and can work together to meet water and climate challenges.
Check out the CDFA Planting Seeds blog for more information on the delegation’s visit.
1 University of California. UC Drought Management. Feb. 2010. Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN. FAO Irrigation and Drainage Paper 66 –Crop yield in response to water. 2012. Almond Board of California. Almond Almanac 1990-94, 2000-14.