On Sunday, 6 October 2019, Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) and Oman Shell signed an agreement to conduct research that aims to find viable solutions to address soil salinity across Al-Batinah region. The increase in the soil salinity of this region is due to reasons such as seawater intrusion along with salt accumulation as a result of high temperatures and low rainfall. With the main objective of decreasing salt contamination of agriculture soils, Shell will provide samples of Special-S (a sulphur fertilizer produced using Shell Thiogro technology) with the SQU research team. This product will be evaluated to determine its effectiveness in remediating saline-soils through soil acidification.
Dr. Daniel Blackburn, Project Leader from the Department of Soils, Water and Agricultural Engineering of Sultan Qaboos University said, “The salt contamination of agriculture soils on the Al-Batinah region has been a real agricultural challenge, reducing farm yields and profitability, and in extreme cases, forcing farmers to abandon their lands. Our collaboration with Oman Shell represents a fantastic public-private partnership directed at community wellbeing, as we believe that the use of Special-S will provide continuous Sulphur and nitrogen nutrition to crops. This product will aid directly on the reclamation programs of salt affected soils, helping to leach the excess of sodium salts, whilst decreasing soil alkalinity and improving plant nutrition. With this technology, we hope to give a substantial contribution to the sustainable management of Omani soils and to the country’s food security.”
Oman Shell’s Country Chairman Walid Hadi said, “Soil salinity is an increasing concern for the Al-Batinah region. We are working together with SQU to conduct critical research that we hope will be a big contributor to a productive and sustainable agricultural sector.” He added, “We are eager to work with the brilliant minds in SQU to meet this real-life challenge facing this industry.”
Over one agricultural cycle between November 2019 and April 2020, the research will be conducted at the Agricultural Experiment Station of Sultan Qaboos University before a final technical report is produced with key findings and next steps. The report will incorporate the extent of feedback between the Special-S amendment application and the availability and uptake of other plant nutrients. It will also include recommendations for further sets of experiments and analyses for subsequent years based on key findings.