Rising temperatures and depletion of water resources have Iran’s high level government officials worried.
Abbas Keshavarz, Iran’s deputy minister for crop production, says, “We have to save water to save our country. We need to do this with crops that can survive with less water. We have passed the point of replenishing what we use and groundwater is in crisis. ”
At the invitation of the Iranian Agricultural Research, Education and Extension Organization, a delegation from the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) traveled to Iran to assess opportunities for collaboration.
Iran currently produces sugarcane, wheat and maize, but these crops require extensive irrigation, as opposed to crops like sorghum and millets that can grow on less water and fewer inputs.
However, there is little to no consumer awareness on the nutritional benefits of these crops. Even dairy producers, who could benefit from sorghum and millet for fodder are reluctant, since their existing practice of using maize fodder gives good results.
After extensive interactions, experts noted that a change in Iran’s agriculture toward more sustainable dryland crops would only be successful if the entire value chain was considered.
Priority areas for collaboration emphasize sorghum and millet as alternatives to maize and alfalfa in marginal areas.
Another priority discussed was to make chickpea a part of the government’s program to enhance food security, with a strong crop improvement component.
It was decided that immediate actions will include sharing of improved germplasm and genetic material from the ICRISAT genebank.