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Nuclear Technology Helps Develop New Barley Variety in Kuwait

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The IAEA has provided support to Kuwait in practical training on mutant identification and selection of barley mutant population in the field. (Photo: L. Jankuloski/IAEA)

New home-grown barley varieties developed using irradiation with the support of the IAEA and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) are in the final stages of development and will be ready to be released to farmers for production in coming years.

“Modern plant breeding technologies ensuring sustainability and conservation of scarce natural resources are of paramount importance in achieving national food security and the enhancement of biodiversity,” said Habibah S. Al-Menaie, a senior research scientist in the Desert Agriculture and Ecosystems Program of the Kuwait Institute of Scientific Research (KISR). “Joining the FAO/IAEA coordinated research projects in the area of mutation breeding has led to the development of several barley mutant lines with improved yield and quality under Kuwait’s environmental conditions.”

As arable land is limited to small areas, 95% of the country’s food and animal fodder is imported. Barley is a preferred crop for cultivation, because it is relatively drought tolerant and therefore one of the most suitable crops for an arid country like Kuwait. Having high yielding home grown crops is among the key objectives of the country’s agricultural programme to enhance food security.

“Increased agricultural production in Kuwait is a major challenge due to several constraints such as drought, salinity, limited water sources, limited plant genetic resources, low percentage of arable land and unpredictable climatic events,” said Al-Menaie.

The development of new varieties with improved traits is just the first step towards increasing yields. Optimizing water and nutrient use efficiency helps ensure that the new improved varieties live up to their yield potential and provide agronomic, environmental and economic benefits. “Efficient crop production requires the establishment of appropriate soil, water and crop management practices in the field. In this regard, soil moisture levels are monitored to develop effective strategies for resource efficient crop production. It increases the efficiency of the agricultural production and conserves natural resources,” Al-Menaie said.

This is a major step forward for the country’s small agriculture industry, said Nader Al-Awadi, the Executive Commissioner for International Cooperation at KISR. Drought, salinity and diseases have historically limited staple crop productivity in Kuwait. The lack of crop varieties optimized to local environmental conditions and improper soil, water and nutrient management practices have hindered sustainable and efficient agricultural production so far, he added.

Mutated barley — the next generation

Mutation induction by radiation rapidly increases the genetic diversity necessary to produce new and improved varieties and is thus advantageous over traditional breeding. “There was no crop mutation work until cooperation commenced with the FAO/IAEA Programme and equipment was received for plant propagation and screening purposes,” Al-Menaie said. With the view to develop the new barley varieties, the growth and yield performance of introduced barley varieties and lines from other countries were evaluated under Kuwait’s environmental conditions. The best adaptable varieties were identified, and the seeds were subjected to induced mutation using gamma rays.

New mutant lines have been generated and they are now examined for drought and salinity tolerance. The selected mutant lines will be advanced, which then can be multiplied for planting. “It’s a long process, but we are about to see the life-changing results, which will have a great impact in the agricultural sector of Kuwait very soon,” Al-Menaie said.

Changed attitude: Increasing farmer awareness

One of the major challenges was explaining to farmers the safety of the new mutated barley lines developed. “When they heard that ‘nuclear techniques’ were used to create improved barely seeds, they got scared,” Al-Menaie said, adding that the authorities encouraged land owners and farmers to participate in crop mutation technology workshops. These provided in-depth information and resulted – over time – in a changed attitude amongst farmers, she said.

Eisa Al-Hasawy, the Chairperson of the Kuwait Dairy Company, pioneered farmers’ support to KISR efforts to promote the benefits of the new mutated barley. “We are happy that on our sandy soil, with little or no water, the new barley variety will be produced to benefit our people and hopefully lead to us exporting barley in the future,” he said. “Working at the grass root level with local farmers was vital to overcoming their fears and traditional mindset.”

Training and enhancing expertise

The FAO/IAEA support has been key to the success in developing the new barley variety. Through technical cooperation and coordinated research projects, the training in integrated crop mutation techniques as well equipment provided to the KISR plant and soil laboratories have helped scientists to gain a better understanding of how nuclear techniques such a gamma ray induction for crop mutation can help to have better crops, Al-Menaie said.

For barley to grow and produce seeds, soil moisture is critical, for which the FAO/IAEA Programme’s support to KISR’s soil and water section, through training and equipment, has been an added value, she said.

To assess the moisture levels in soil, and to ensure every drop of water is used, the FAO/IAEA experts provided training on soil water management and soil moisture equipment, including the use of the cosmic ray neutron sensor to assess water availability to the crop. The cosmic ray sensor monitors soil moisture over up to 20 hectares, a much bigger footprint compared to conventional moisture sensors, said Abdullah Salem Alshatti, the principal researcher at the KISR Soil Department.

The moisture in the soil is tracked in real time and the data acquired helps develop effective strategies to optimise supplemental irrigation to have soil moist to a level that benefits crop production, he said. “Data collected from the cosmic ray sensor also helps to develop precise action to conserve moisture in the soil by using dry weeds and tree barks on the top soil to preserve wetness”.

IAEA

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Technology for Social Good in India

MD Staff

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From using drones to plan water supply schemes in hard-to-reach locations, to deploying satellite imagery for enhancing land usage, or using mobile phones to track children’s health, technology is changing the way we live. The World Bank is supporting several interventions where new-age technology is being used for social good, giving a new tool to policymakers to improve governance and the quality of our lives

Making farmers resilient

Digital applications are helping farmers in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh make faster and better decisions on crop planning based on weather conditions, soil and other indicators

This $12.67-million Sustainable Livelihoods and Adaptation to Climate Change project that started in 2015 has so far empowered more than 8,000 farmers to adopt climate resilient practices.

Prioritizing interventions

Satellite images taken from a height of 900 km in Karnataka capture crucial data like land use as well as land cover, groundwater prospects, and soil characteristics. When this data is fused with rainfall patterns and literacy rates, it helps experts and communities to prioritize action plans such as those for soil and water conservation

Geographic information system (GIS) technology can also map nutrient deficiencies in the soil, which helps with crop planning.

The Karnataka Watershed Development Project, known locally as Sujala, covered over half a million hectares of land in seven predominantly rain-fed districts in Karnataka between 2001 and 2009 and was the first to deploy the use of satellite remote sensing and GIS mapping effectively over a large area.

Supplying Water in Challenging Terrain

Shimla city in Himachal Pradesh gets water once every two days for a few hours, while bulk water is pumped over 1,400 meters, creating a high cost of service

To tackle this, drones have been used to click high resolution images in high altitudes and challenging topography in World Bank’s Shimla Water Supply and Sewerage Service Delivery Reform Project. This, along with GIS technologies, has helped the state government prepare a 24×7 water supply model for the city that addresses issues such as pressure management, transmission and distribution networks, and identifying illegal connections.

Tracking health

All across India approximately 150,000 Anganwadi workers are using smartphones to track growth and nutrition in children. Photos of the hot lunch served to the children at health and nutrition centers, for example, can now easily be shared with block, district and state-level officials.

“It’s easier to work with mobiles than registers,” confessed an Anganwadi worker in Madhya Pradesh.

The World Bank has so far invested about $306 million in nutrition through the ICDS Systems Strengthening and Nutrition Improvement Project.

In Chhattisgarh, a mobile based application called Nutri-Click provides real time, need-based, one-on-one counseling on appropriate nutrition and care practices to pregnant women and caregivers and mothers of young children and their family members.

The program has so far helped over 4000 pregnant and lactating women

Digitizing Medical Records

Doctors in 36 public hospitals in Tamil Nadu can now access, collect and analyze critical health data for quick and timely interventions with the click of a button. The system also helps with retrieval of manual records as well as maintenance and management of medical equipment, making the entire process transparent and convenient.

The $110.3 million Tamil Nadu Health Systems Project was active in five Tamil Nadu districts. A second phase will now aim to cover another 222 hospitals across the remaining 25 state districts.

e-Governance

In 164 municipalities in Karnataka, property owners are now able to calculate their property taxes online; 10 million birth and death records are now online and searchable; and over 390,000 citizen complaints were lodged over 10 months—98 percent of which were redressed.

Through the Karnataka Municipal Reforms Project, municipal revenues have increased while interface between citizens and local administrations has vastly improved.

Vocational Training

World Bank’s Vocational Training Improvement Project has helped digitize activities such as admissions, examination management, and certifications in Industrial Training Institutes (ITI) under the National Council of Vocational Training.

The portal provides detailed records from more than 13,000 public and private ITIs across the country, including data related to courses offered, admissions, examinations, placements, etc.

So far more than 150,000 e-certificates to past trainees have been issued, and over 2 million certified trainees have received online certificates, saving time and effort.

World Bank

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Innovative smartphone app to improve rainwater harvesting in Africa

MD Staff

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It is now possible to calculate the amount of rainwater that can be harvested from the roof of houses thanks to a new smart phone app developed by UN Environment and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.  

The app, a first of its kind, is based on actual meteorological data collected from weather stations across Africa. The data is specific to locations closest to the weather stations, which the app presents as the nearest city. 

Promoting rainwater harvesting is becoming increasingly important to ensure greater water security. It offers an adaptation strategy to climate change, providing an opportunity to store rainwater under increasing conditions of high rainfall variability.   

Rainwater harvesting can also improve livelihoods of women and children by reducing time spent on fetching water: women still spend 16 million hours a day collecting water in 25 sub-Saharan countries.

 It can improve household sanitation and health with an improved drinking water source. Rainwater harvesting also contributes to food security, providing water during dry seasons for small-scale agriculture. Although not every single drop of rain can and should be harvested, rainwater is still an underutilized water source in Africa.

 The lack of water is a real challenge across Africa. On average, a person needs eight glasses of water (2 liters) per day. According to the Vital Water Graphics report by UN Environment and GRID Arendal, “more than 2.8 billion people in 48 countries will face water stress or water scarcity conditions by 2025. An area is experiencing water stress when annual water supplies drop below 1700 m3 per person”. 

In many such countries, rainwater can be harnessed easily for domestic and agricultural use. Harvested rainwater can also benefit the environment and ecosystem when used to enhance groundwater recharge and restore vegetative cover. The low cost of rainwater harvesting technologies can be a more attractive investment option in rural areas compared to investing in a main water supply system.   

The new app demonstrates opportunities for rainwater harvesting. For example, a person in Turkana county in Kenya can enter her location (Kenya, Lodwar), the length and width of the roof of the house (in metres), the number of family members, and the quantity of water used per day. The app returns the estimated amount of rainwater that can be harvested, and the quantity of water for a family. It also proposes the size of the rainwater harvesting system as well as its estimated cost. Simple sketches showing rainwater systems and how to recharge groundwater are also included in the app. Rainwater harvesting systems can be easily constructed using appropriate technology and locally available materials.  

Rainwater can be collected in relatively simple ways. Rainwater that falls in ditches, on rooftops or on other surface areas is collected in storage facilities, such as water tanks or ponds. This water is stored and used for domestic and agricultural purposes. There are also other ways of rainwater harvesting, such as storing it in the ground where it can be used as groundwater for human consumption or for nature. 

Ann Kiria, chair of a young women’s group in Kajiado in Kenya said, “water harvesting has benefited our community where women have played a key role in constructing water tanks. With the knowledge we have acquired, building a water tank to harvest rainwater is no more out of reach”. 

Currently the smart phone application is available for Android (Play Store) system for free.  You can download it by searching for RWH Africa Interactive Tool. 

A web version is also available at http://www.rainwaterharvesting.africa. An IOS (App Store) version will follow soon.

UN Environment

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Companies Are Saving to Transform as Digital Disruption Gains Momentum Globally

MD Staff

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As digital technologies continue to reinvent how businesses grow and operate, the associated risks and opportunities are prompting companies to expand their cost management strategies, according to Deloitte’s second biennial global cost survey, released today. The study, “Save-to-transform as a Catalyst for Embracing Digital Disruption,” shows that while traditional cost reduction methods are still crucial, many organizations are also investing heavily in transformative digital technologies to improve operating efficiency and cost savings while also boosting overall performance and competitiveness in an increasingly digital world.

Concurrently, as digital disruption emerges as an impetus for change, cost management remains a strong imperative globally. According to the survey of more than 1,200 global executives and business leaders, 71% are planning to undertake cost reduction initiatives over the next 24 months. Sixty-eight percent reported total reductions of 10% or higher, and nearly one-third (31%) have cost improvement targets above 20%. Eighty-one percent, however, report being unable to meet fully their cost reduction goals during the past year, 18 percentage points worse than in 2017, due to implementation challenges, lack of effective systems, and infeasible targets.

Digital disruption and cybersecurity rank as leading external risks
Demonstrating the significant role technology is playing in shaping cost management strategies, digital disruption soared to the top of the list as the biggest external risk according to respondents at 61%, up from just 6% in 2017. Digital disruption was surpassed only by another technology-related risk, cybersecurity, which at 62% ranks at or near the top of the risk list globally and in all regions except Latin America. Internally, reliability and functionality of information systems was identified as a top risk.

“In today’s highly dynamic and competitive landscape, digital disruption is changing how companies view every aspect of their business, including cost management practices,” said Omar Aguilar, principal and global strategic cost transformation leader, Deloitte Consulting LLP. “Deloitte’s study shows that businesses are now recognizing they must save-to-transform, using investments in digital infrastructure to drive dramatic improvements in future performance, efficiency and market position.”

Digital risks are spurring organizations to use cost reduction as a mechanism to fund technological transformation. Globally, the survey found that application of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning is expected to more than double from 25% to 63%. Findings also show similar growth is expected for automation (25% to 62%) and business intelligence (35% to 59%). Cloud continues to be the most widely implemented digital technology covered by the survey at 49% and is expected to remain popular due to its ability to tighten data security, as well as to reduce costs and improve productivity. However, all technologies in the survey are expected to be implemented at a level of 47% or higher over the next 24 months, signaling the widespread business impact of technology innovation.

Revenue growth is on the rise, but companies are cautious
The survey also found that companies are well-positioned to undergo this type of transformation, with 86% of respondents reporting increased revenue over the past two years. This optimistic outlook continues into the future, with the same number of respondents expecting revenue growth over the next 24 months as businesses around the world enjoy one of the longest periods of economic expansion in history.

Even with the optimistic outlook, however, forward-thinking organizations are taking a cautionary stance. Economic patterns are cyclical, and potential warning signs are starting to emerge. In particular, the survey data show a 97% increase in global respondents who are concerned about macroeconomic risk over the next two years, and a 20% increase in U.S. respondents who expect a significant reduction in consumer demand over the same period.

Shifting cost management from growth to transformation
Through years of historic economic growth, cost reduction has evolved into an essential tool to help businesses fund their required growth investments (saving to grow). Now, however, many companies are taking things even further, using digital cost solutions and infrastructure improvements. These include robotic process automation, cognitive technologies, business intelligence and cloud-based enterprise resource planning to lift their efficiency, performance, and competitiveness to a new level (saving to transform).

“The 2019 study shows that companies have an enormous opportunity to capitalize on current economic strengths and leverage cost management practices to transform and innovate their businesses,” said Jason Girzadas, managing principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP, Deloitte Global. “Our mission at Deloitte is to help organizations around the world implement these transformations and make their businesses more efficient and more successful, now and in the future.”

“Cost management practices and approaches have grown increasingly sophisticated over time, and digital solutions, although still maturing, now represent the most advanced level of cost management,” said Aguilar. “By harnessing the power of digital technology to streamline their cost structures and generate cost savings, companies can take full advantage of the latest digital innovations — becoming the disrupters, rather than the disrupted.”

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