Iraq, in this time of regional insecurity, is greatly dependent on imported food to support the needs of its population.
Of the factors that contribute to crop yield, 70 per cent relate to crop management practices such as the frequency of soil tilling. Current wheat production in Iraq satisfies less than half of the national demand, so modification of traditional farming methods and crop management has great potential to help Iraqi farmers increase their wheat yields.
Hackett Professor Kadambot Siddique from The UWA Institute of Agriculture is part of a project (funded by Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research and AusAID) providing the Iraqi Government with ongoing assistance in crucial elements of its National Development Strategy, particularly in improving the nations agricultural self-sufficiency.
The project aims to increase crop productivity, profitability and sustainability in the drylands of northern Iraq through development, evaluation and promotion of conservation cropping technologies involving zero-tillage, stubble mulching, improved crop varieties and better crop management. The project is also involved in capacity building in Iraq through MSc students at UWA and short training programs.
Iraqi agriculture faces some very serious challenges from declining production, low crop yields, poor research and extension services and low prices, Professor Siddique said.
Gaps in the agricultural knowledge of Iraq's farming and research community have appeared after 15 years of isolation from the Internet, recent research and advances in agricultural and computing technology. These gaps can be closed with training, new equipment, and study tours to countries facing technical issues in agriculture similar to those in Iraq.
Local villagers have been trained to produce and market seed and zero-till machinery. Meanwhile, local agricultural agencies have received technical training to plan, implement and monitor research and development programs. So far, local growers have widely adopted these conservation cropping systems.