Satoshi Matsumoto

More than 60% of the land surface of the earth consists of arid and semi-arid soils, which are generally too dry to produce a good yield. If enough fresh water is available and the soil conditions are suitable, these soils can be irrigated and used for agricultural lands. These regions, therefore, have been expected to be the new promising land resources for food production with the progress of agricultural technologies. From this background, much attention has been paid to arid and semiarid soils, and more agricultural projects are being planned and executed. However, many projects have failed in the past and even now, because some years after irrigation the salinity or alkali hazard increases. According to the estimates of FAO and UNESCO, as much as half of all the existing irrigation agricultural farms of the world are more or less under the influence of secondary salinization, alkaliniza-tion and waterlogging. They also report that 10 million hectares of irrigated land are abandoned yearly as a consequence of the adverse effects of irrigation, mainly secondary salin-ization and alkalinization. This phenomenon is very common not only in old irrigation systems but also in areas where irrigation has only recently been introduced. In addition, the recent prolonged droughts or unstable weather in arid regions is wreaking fatal damage on dry farming lands, leading to the main cause of desertification. It is debatable whether sustainable agriculture can be established in areas which are saline or alkaline, or which are potentially saline or alkaline.

Aiming for sustainable agriculture in dry regions, on the other hand, many technologies for improved biological productivity in arid and semi-arid lands have been developed. They include ground water management, soil and water management, crop and resource management, and soil amelioration. However, since we postulate sustainability in dry land agriculture, we should keep an economical background in technology.

In this session, we will focus on the possibilities of sustainable production in arid regions for the coming century as well as discuss, from several aspects which include the influence of climate variability on productivity, the fundamental technologies for water and soil management, the actual management for crop and resource in dry land farming, and the reasonable production of soil amendment in alkali soil.

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