The Department of Soils, Water & Agricultural Engineering at the College of Agricultural & Marine Sciences at SQU organized a forum on “Soil Cosmos as a Foundation of Food Security” with the participation of researchers from the Netherlands and Oman. The event was held today under the patronage of Dr. Seif bin Rashid Al Shaqsi, Director of the Directorate General of Million Date Palm Plantations Project of the Diwan of Royal Court. Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Said Al Ismaily, Assistant Professor in the Department, said that healthy soils are essential for achieving food security and nutrition and ensuring the planet’s biodiversity. At the same time, the level of soil degradation globally is “alarming” and has the potential to threaten food security and send many people into poverty. Sustainable soil management, in turn, can contribute to the production of more and healthier food”, he noted.
Prof. Johannes Bouma, Emeritus Professor, Wageningen University and Research Centre, the Netherlands, gave the keynote address on “the role of soils as a central pillar towards food security”. Prof. Bouma said that food security has to be seen in the broader context of sustainable development considering economic, social and environmental aspects. The holistic approach encompasses ending hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture (food). Currently, the major threats to food security includes soil erosion, organic matter decline from soils, contamination of soils and water, salinization and compaction of soils”, he said.
Prof. Bouma said that use of technologies and modern methods such as precision agriculture and vertical farming can help to ensure food security by off- shooting the negative effects of soils degradation and other threats to soils. Precision farming, he said, is everything that makes the practice of farming more accurate and controlled when it comes to the growing of crops. A key component of this farm management approach is the use of information technology and a wide array of items such as GPS guidance, control systems, GPS-based soil sampling, etc. Safe use of wastewater in farming and other sustainable methods can be applied with a holistic vision”, he noted.
Prof. Rashid Al Yahyai, Dean of the College of Agricultural & Marine Sciences spoke about research studies from Oman that address rich crop productivity from poor soils. Dr. Rashid Al Abri from the Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources spoke about the situation of water resources in Oman. Dr. Abdullah Al Ghafri from Nizwa University spoke about the sustainability of aflaj systems in Oman. Graduate and undgergraduate students from the Department of Soils, Water and Agricultural Engineering also made presentations on soil and water management.