Location: Soil Management ResearchTitle: Agriculture in the Fertile Crescent: Continuity and change under climate change
Submitted to: CAB Reviews: Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural Resources
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/4/2017
Publication Date: 11/1/2017
Citation: Jaradat, A.A. 2017. Agriculture in the Fertile Crescent: Continuity and change under climate change. CAB Reviews: Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural Resources. 12(34). doi:10.1079/PAVSNNR201712034.
Interpretive Summary: The Fertile Crescent in Southwest Asia is a highly biodiverse region where most of the world temperate-zone agricultural cereal, legume, oil, and forage crops; fruit trees; and vegetables originated and were first domesticated. A favorable environment, a special plant community, and an adaptive population combined to initiate the transition from hunter-gatherer to agriculture and food production. Early farmers in the Fertile Crescent, for centuries, pioneered solutions to the management problems of prosperous agricultural societies. However, over time, the region became the largest water and food deficient part of the world due to environmental and demographic factors. Possible reorientation of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent, although very important but not a small challenge, will shape the welfare of its people for generations. This also may serve as a living example for other parts of the developing world in order to develop and implement solutions to emerging agricultural challenges.
Technical Abstract: The Fertile Crescent is a highly biodiverse region where most temperate-zone agricultural species originated and were first domesticated. A favorable environment, a special plant community, and an adaptive population combined to initiate the transition from a hunter-gatherer economy to one based on agriculture and food production in the Fertile Crescent. However, over time, valuable plant genetic resources of the region are being eroded through degradation of natural habitats, intensification of the cultivation of arable lands, expansion of cultivation into marginal areas, replacement of diverse and widely adapted landraces by new cultivars based on a narrow genetic base, and over-exploitation of natural pastures and grazing lands. There is a grave risk that much of the inherent biodiversity of the Fertile Crescent will be lost unless a holistic approach to the management of ecosystems, based on sustainable agriculture and sustainable development, is implemented. Water scarcity is the key environmental issue and a major constraint to economic and social development in the Fertile Crescent; inefficient and inequitable use of water is at the root of many problems in the region, and yet, effective solutions remain elusive. With 75% of water demand covered by virtual water imports, the Fertile Crescent is the world’s fastest region in its dependence on imported food; such imports will remain, for the foreseeable future, the main option for adaptation to climate change in the Fertile Crescent. Climate change is expected to further reduce water availability in the Fertile Crescent; while water quality is a growing concern due to chemical pollution and soil salinity. As the ancient Fertile Crescent was a cultural forerunner in solving the management problems of affluent agricultural societies, it might become a testing ground for managing the scarcity of natural resources. Possible reorientation of agriculture, although very important but not a trivial challenge, will shape the welfare of its people for generations.