Launch of new conservation agriculture research center

The Conservation Agriculture Research Center, the first research and training center of its kind in Iraq, was recently inaugurated. ICARDA has been involved in establishing the center and will ensure findings from research conducted there are integrated into HSAD activities. The center, located in a new purpose-built wing in the University of Mosul, is equipped with a seed laboratory, and a cold store for long-term conservation of seed. The 15 professional staff will support the scaling-up of conservation agriculture across the country and throughout the region.
Conservation agriculture – the practice of leaving crop residue in the field to improve soil fertility and retain water – cost-effectively balances yields, conserves resources, and increases efficiency. In the dry areas of the developing world, where climate change is predicted to have its most severe effects, conservation agriculture practices hold significant potential for farmers to improve their yields.
The effects of climate change are already taking their toll in the dry areas of Iraq. Farmers are battling with more frequent droughts and increasing water scarcity. HSAD promotes conservation agriculture as a way of overcoming these constraints, and sustaining production in the face of shifting climate patterns. Successes in Iraq will be scaled-up to other dry areas across the region.
An on-going ICARDA initiative funded by the Australian government – Conservation Cropping Systems in the drylands of Northern Iraq - has already convinced a growing number of Iraqi farmers to adopt conservation agriculture. Since 2005, conservation cropping has spread to over 10,800 hectares. The wealth of experience and information gathered during over this time will feed into the work of the new center and into other efforts to encourage the use of conservation practices across the country.
Dr Abdulsattar Alrijabo, Professor of Agronomy at the University of Mosul, summed up the important role the center will play when he said “Iraq is in its seventh year of applying conservation agriculture and the center will help spread this practice by producing and sharing evidence that makes the case for wider use of the approach across the country”.