The International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) have successfully grown halophytic (salt-loving) vegetables in the UAE conditions for the first time, both in the open field conditions and a simple net-house structure, without using fresh water. The halophytic vegetables are being grown using reject brine from desalination units treated with fish effluents. The reject brine from desalination goes through the aquaculture system so as to make use of the water enriched in nutrients.
The plan is to introduce these vegetables into the local diet as these vegetables are very rich in antioxidants, fatty acids, vitamins and other vital elements essential for the human health. Some of them have pharmaceutical and medicinal properties, such as ‘purslane’ which is the richest plant source in alpha-Linolenic acid, one of the two essential fatty acids necessary for health that cannot be produced within the human body, and therefore must be acquired through a diet.
The method will help save fresh water and eventually contribute towards sustainable future food security of the country. The centre is currently growing six halophytic vegetables at its experimental station in Dubai including Salsola soda (agretti); Crithmum maritimum (rock samphire); Beta maritima (sea beet); Aster tripolium (sea aster); Salicornia bigelovii (samphire); and Portulaca oleracea (common purslane). ICBA researchers are focusing on developing integrated farming solutions tailor-made for any specific area taking into account its climatic, soil and socio-economic characteristics.
Image Credit: WAM