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An overview of Conservation Agriculture in the dry Mediterranean environments with a special focus on Syria and Lebanon

1 Department of Agriculture, FA FS, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon
2 Conservation Agriculture Programme; ACSAD, Damascus, Syria
3 School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, University of Reading, UK
4 German International Technical Cooperation (GIZ), Eschborn, Germany
5 Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute (LARI), Tell Amara, Lebanon

Special Editions: Sustainable Crop Production Intensification

Conservation Agriculture (CA), comprising minimum or no mechanical soil disturbance through no-till seeding, organic soil mulch cover, and crop diversification is now practiced on some 157 million ha worldwide, corresponding to about 11% of the global cropped land. CA adoption in the Middle-East is low compared to other regions. Lack of knowledge on CA practices and systems discourages farmers from giving up ploughing. The main reason why farmers in the Middle-East have begun to apply the no-till system has been the cost reduction in fuel, labor and machinery required for land preparation. Soil and water conservation concerns do not appear to be the main drivers in the Middle-Eastern farmers’ decision to adopt or not to adopt CA. The adoption and uptake of CA by Middle Eastern farmers has been slow but it is nonetheless occurring gradually. Collection of information and research parameters related to agricultural practices are needed for designing a suitable soil and water conservation program for sustainable production intensification. Governmental policy encouraging the adoption and spread of CA systems in the Middle-East region is certainly a necessary condition for uptake. The objective of this article is to review the current status of adoption and spread of CA in the Middle-East, focusing mainly on Syria and Lebanon, and the potential beneficial consequences that can be harnessed through CA systems under rainfed conditions in both countries. The benefits include: higher factor productivity, yield and income; improved soil properties; climate change adaptation, including reduced vulnerability to the erratic rainfall distribution; and reduction in machinery, fuel and labor costs.
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