Successful start to new HSAD crop and livestock initiatives

HSAD has set up a number of new initiatives to improve crop and livestock production in Iraq in recent months. 
As part of a soil salinity and drought management trial in al-Nasiriyah, researchers selected a previously unfarmed area with a water source for irrigation as a test site. This was then divided into 16 smaller test sites, which were planted with one of four grass species. Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon) is a species commonly found in Iraq, and will provide a comparison for the three other species, all selected for their drought and salt tolerance by the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture. 
Through HSAD, 21 pastoral stations are working together to establish a seed bank. Following field visits and meetings with farmers, they have agreed to plant 75,000 m2 with pastoral plants. The plants will provide a source of salt and drought tolerant genes, as well as seeds that can be planted in other areas across Iraq to help preserve these species from extinction.
In May, a workshop was run by HSAD and experts from ICARDA in Erbil to plan in detail a new alley cropping system for two main areas in Nineveh. As part of this work, around 2000 seedlings of the pastoral shrub Atriplex halimus were sent to the Iraqi Kurdistan region, with the aim of boosting grazing management by sheep farmers. A. halimus is a valuable fodder plant as it helps to boost the value of degraded marginal land through the addition of plant life, and it thrives particularly well in dry and saline soils. Work will also continue to establish a seedling nursery in al-Rashidiya. 
Also taking place in Erbil is the first stage of a new study to monitor the impacts and value of supplementary irrigation. This will be run at six farms, with three of them using supplementary irrigation. The results of this study should be ready in a few months. 
In livestock, a breeding management and improvement study has begun on a farm in Baghdad. From a flock of 130 Awassi sheep, 25 were selected for hormone treatment. The ewes were treated with a progesterone-impregnated internal sponge for 12 days to increase conception rates and synchronise estrous, or ovulation, in the ewes. Following this, the ewes were injected with PMSG (Pregnant Mare Serum Gonadotropin) to induce estrous, and boost twinning rates. After 48 hours all of the ewes were in estrous, and 24 were mounted. The birth rates of the treated sheep should be known within the coming months.