Overview Objectives

Agricultural production in Iraq suffers from past mismanagement caused by civil instability with associated loss of capacity, plus the effects of periodic droughts. ACIAR and AusAID are funding assistance, and this project builds upon earlier work in CIM/2004/024 Better crop germplasm and management for improved production of wheat, barley and pulse and forage legumes in Iraq, which operated from 2005 to 2008 in Ninevah Governorate in northern Iraq. The project aims to increase productivity, profitability and sustainability of crops in the drylands of this region through testing and promotion of conservation cropping technologies. The scientists will evaluate technologies such as zero-tillage and stubble mulching, identify improved crop cultivars and encourage better crop management. The work will lead to wide adoption of conservation cropping systems by farmers, development of local village capacities to produce and market seed and zero-tillage machinery, and improved technical capacity by agricultural agencies to plan, implement and monitor research and development programs. The project team will invite agricultural researchers, extension officers and leading farmers from the neighbouring governorates of Dohuk, Sulaymaniyah and Erbil as well as the more southerly Najaf to engage with the project, thus improving their knowledge of conservation farming and opening up possibilities for implementing the technologies in those regions.

Progress Reports (Year 1, 2, 3 etc)

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 cultivars and better crop management. Project activity is focussed in Ninevah Governorate.
The objectives are:
1. To demonstrate and promote uptake of “best-bet” improved varieties and crop management systems for wheat, barley and pulse and forage legumes
2. To evaluate and select new, improved germplasm of wheat, barley and pulse and forage legumes for promotion in demonstration programs
3. To evaluate and select new, improved crop management technologies for promotion in demonstration programs
4. To facilitate agricultural planning and development through utilisation of GIS and crop modelling
5. To develop, evaluate and promote efficient and sustainable local seed production and supply systems
6. To monitor and evaluate adoption and impacts of project technologies, and identify enabling policy options to enhance uptake by farmers
7. To enhance capacity of Iraqi research and extension programs to develop and promote improved conservation cropping technologies.
The project commenced with the first reporting/planning meeting at ICARDA in September 2008, with 17 participants from Iraq, 7 from Australia and 20 from ICARDA. Activities and achievements from the previous project (CIM/2004/024) were presented and the 2008-09 workplan for the new project developed and circulated.
Under the demonstration objective, on-farm demonstrations were established as planned at 12 locations in Iraq evaluating wheat, barley, chickpea, and lentil lines under zero-tillage (ZT), chisel cultivation and conventional cultivation (CC). ZT area in the demonstrations covered 52ha. Six collaborating farmers independently sowed 440ha of ZT crops using a Rama seeder modified for ZT. The year was very dry with <150mm of rainfall at half the locations. Inspections in April-May 2009 confirmed that harvests were possible in only 4 sites, with crops failing because of low rainfall in the other 8 sites. Field days were held at Alqush on 7 January (12 farmers and staff); Telkief on 24 May (18 farmers and staff); and Alqush on 25 May (16 farmers and staff).
In linked demonstrations in Syria, 2070ha of ZT crops were established by 41 farmers in on-farm comparisons of ZT vs CC using locally-made ZT seeders. These farmer crops were inspected and discussed to promote understanding of ZT/stubble mulching with 12 farmers and 12 scientists from Iraq and 7 scientists and 10 farmers from Syria during training-study visits on ZT research, development and seeders in the spring of 2009.
Under the germplasm and crop management research objectives, the project conducted a total of 66 research trials. The University of Mosul and State Board of Agricultural Research Ninevah established 50 trials: 31 on evaluation of elite lines of wheat, barley, chickpea and lentil and varieties of vetch, lathyrus, saltbush, safflower, oats and peas; 19 on crop management and agronomy involving mixtures, rotations, polymer gel, hardpan amelioration and IPM. Trials were regularly inspected and evaluated. Unfortunately, crop growth was poor in many sites due to the very dry year, with reasonable growth and harvests expected from only 12 trials in 4 locations. Harvesting commenced in May/June.
At ICARDA, 16 trials for technology refinement/verification and Iraqi scientist and farmer training were conducted on crop growth under ZT and CC, local seeder performance under ZT and evaluation of alternative crops (oilseeds, oats, peas). All trials established and grew well with 280mm of rain. Growth was consistently better from ZT than CC and early than late sowing. Locally-made ZT seeders performed well. Trials were harvested in May/June.
Under the capacity enhancement objective, there were 91 Iraqi scientist and technician training visits to ICARDA with 74 participating in 10 formal training courses and 17 participating in the reporting-planning meeting where Australian collaborators gave 3 seminars on ZT machinery development, participatory extension and germplasm evaluation under ZT. The formal training focused on specific areas related to project implementation: adoption and impact analysis; seed multiplication and marketing; experimental methods and statistics; ZT seeder principles and operation; variety description and maintenance; GIS/remote sensing; germplasm improvement and breeding; and participatory extension methodology/practice. Australian collaborators delivered 3 of these courses.
In a May 2009 study visit, 11 farmers from Iraq and 8 from Syria spent a week inspecting and discussing ZT research and local farmer demonstrations in northern Syria. This was a very significant visit which enhanced farmer knowledge of conservation cropping systems and encouraged farmer involvement in development and evaluation of ZT/stubble mulching systems in Ninevah and Syria.
Six Iraqi project scientists attended several other significant capacity enhancement opportunities closely related to project activities:
a) one Iraqi economist undertook impact and adoption analysis training at an ACIAR-sponsored Crawford Fund Master Class in India in March 2009.
b) three Iraqi cereal breeders undertook crop breeding and seed production training at an AusAID sponsored course followed by a conservation cropping study tour in Australia in June-July 2009.
c) two Iraqi scientists/project leaders participated in, and presented a project poster at, the 4th World Congress on Conservation Agriculture and undertook a study tour of ACIAR-supported conservation cropping projects in India in February 2009.
During the year, project findings and research and demonstration trials were shown to and discussed with 50 farmers at field days and 21 agricultural engineering students in Iraq and over 500 visitors at ICARDA, which exposed the project and technology widely.
Detailed project information including project documents, reports and presentations is available through the ICARDA web site (http://www.icarda.cgiar.org/ACIAR/Index.htm). The website averaged150 hits/month during July 2008 - April 2009.
Since ZT technology was first exposed and introduced into Iraq by the previous project in 2006-07, the known area of ZT crops has increased to 489ha in 2008-09.In project-related development in Syria where the technology was similarly unknown and untested, total ZT area from project interactions was about 2126ha in 2008-09. A further 160ha of ZT crops is being grown in research and development projects involving Syrian research and extension groups. The recent increase in awareness, research and development on the technology, the keen involvement of farmers and seeder manufacturers in testing and taking up ZT sowing and seeder fabrication, and the higher yields and lower costs being experienced with the technology, provide a good foundation and confidence for wider adoption and impact. However, it has been difficult and disheartening for researchers, extension officers and farmers to develop, promote and evaluate better varieties and conservation cropping technologies during two successive severe droughts. We will hope for a wetter year in Iraq and Syria in 2009-10.

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 cultivars and better crop management. Project activity is focussed in Ninevah Governorate.
The objectives are:
1. To demonstrate and promote uptake of “best-bet” improved varieties and crop management systems for wheat, barley and pulse and forage legumes
2. To evaluate and select new, improved germplasm of wheat, barley and pulse and forage legumes for promotion in demonstration programs
3. To evaluate and select new, improved crop management technologies for promotion in demonstration programs
4. To facilitate agricultural planning and development through utilisation of GIS and crop modelling
5. To develop, evaluate and promote efficient and sustainable local seed production and supply systems
6. To monitor and evaluate adoption and impacts of project technologies, and identify enabling policy options to enhance uptake by farmers
7. To enhance capacity of Iraqi research and extension programs to develop and promote improved conservation cropping technologies.
The second project reporting/planning meeting was held at ICARDA on 27 September-1 October 2009, with 31 participants from Iraq, 3 from Australia and 15 from ICARDA. The Australian Ambassador and the First Secretary (Development Assistance) from the Australian Embassy in Baghdad attended and opened/closed the meeting. The Indian leader of the ACIAR project on enhancing wheat quality from the Directorate of Wheat Research in India also attended the meeting to share and discuss project experiences. Activities and achievements from 2008-09 were presented and the 2009-10 workplan developed and agreed.
In Ninevah, demonstrations of ZT, chisel cultivation and traditional cultivation with early/late planting using a local variety of barley, bread wheat, and durum wheat were established at 13 locations with 15 farmers. Lentil and chickpea were included at several sites. Rainfall (230-740mm) and harvests were good at 11 locations. Demonstrations covered 168 ha, with 56ha of ZT.
Three farmers grew 1025ha of ZT using their locally-modified modified Rama or John Shearer seeders. Thirteen farmers grew nearly 700ha of ZT crops using 3 Syrian 4m-wide trailed ZT tine seeders and one Syrian 4m-wide trailed ZT disc seeder. Overall, about 1800ha of ZT crops were grown by 31 farmers in Ninevah.
Field days were held in Ninevah at four demonstration sites. The first was arranged by farmers involved in ZT seeder modification at Nimroud on 20 February 10 (25 farmers-staff). Others were arranged by DOA at Mahalabia on 20 April 10 (31 farmers-staff), Telkief on 6 May 10 (42 farmers-staff) and Alshekhanon on 13 May 10 (80 farmers-staff).
In farmer demonstrations with collaborators in northern Syria, some 200- 250 farmers established about 8,000-10,000ha of ZT crop. Field days were held at Salamiya on 20 April (200 participants), Kamishley on 22 April (250) and Jarjanaz on 28 April (350).
Demonstrations and field days were used in training visits by Iraqi scientists and farmers, to inspect and discuss ZT activities with Syrian researchers, extension officers and farmers. Many Iraqis initially sceptical about ZT, low seed rates and early planting were very positive by the end of their visits.
In Ninevah, 54 research trials were conducted under the germplasm and crop management research objectives. The University of Mosul and State Board of Agricultural Research Ninevah established 41 trials: 28 on evaluation of elite lines and varieties of wheat, barley, chickpea, lentil, vetch, lathyrus, saltbush, safflower, oats and peas; 13 on crop management involving mixtures, rotations, polymer gel, hardpan amelioration and IPM. Trials generally grew well with harvesting in May/June.
At ICARDA, 14 trials for technology refinement/verification and Iraqi scientist and farmer training were conducted on: crop and variety performance under ZT and CC; local seeder performance; time, seed rate and depth of sowing; comparison of local ZT seeders; evaluation of alternative crops (oilseeds, oats, peas); and increasing wheat frequency in wheat-lentil-camelina rotations. All trials established and grew well with 270mm of rain. Growth was consistently better from ZT than CC and early than late sowing. Locally-made ZT seeders performed well. Cereals and legumes seemed to do best when planted early with 100kg/ha of seed planted at 4-8cm depth. Trials were harvested in May/June.
Experience in 2008-09 with the first 3 local Syrian-made ZT seeders by farmers and researchers identified needs for stronger, wider, trailed or 3PL seeders with more-widely spaced tines and press wheels. Seven new models (10 units) were made 2009-10 in collaboration with El Bab, Qabbasin and Kamishley manufacturers. Four seeders were sent to Ninevah for evaluation and use in farmer demonstrations. These have worked well with several requiring some adjustment and strengthening.
In Ninevah, was not possible to engage local manufacturers in ZT seeder fabrication. However, three local farmers, one the owner of the Nimroud demonstration site, continued innovative ZT modification and experimentation with local seeders, developing and testing robust and effective tines and narrow points in collaboration with Australian specialists. The farmers organised and funded a successful field day on 20 February attended by 25 farmers-scientists, showing and describing their positive experiences with ZT seeder modification and ZT crops. This farmer leadership in developing, testing, demonstrating and promoting modified ZT seeders is thought by project leaders to be a first for Ninevah/Iraq, and represents a major outcome and impact from the project.
There were major efforts in Ninevah to develop on-farm seed production. Foundation seed production of bread wheat, durum wheat and barley varieties was commenced at Rashidiya RS. Some 225ha of wheat (15 vars) and barley (4 vars) was grown in 10 locations by 21 seed production farmers; these will form the foundation of project-led village-based seed production enterprises.
In capacity enhancement at ICARDA, there were 77 Iraqi scientist and technician training visits with 47 participating in 12 formal training courses and 30 in the annual meeting where one Australian collaborator gave a seminar on climate change. The training remained targeted, with Australian partners delivering 3 of the courses, and focused on specific areas related to the project: Socio-economic planning and evaluation; GIS landuse/cover mapping; Crop management and post harvest operations in quality seed production; ZT plot seeder assembly, operation and maintenance; Advanced design and analysis of experiments; Best practices for collecting and conserving genetic resources; Participatory extension; Iraqi farmers ZT study visit; Variety identification and maintenance; Data management, ANOVA, regression: Excel and Genstat; GIS/Remote sensing; ZT and agronomy research experience. In addition, 14 collaborating Syrian scientists also participated in some of these courses.
There were two very significant visits, one by 18 Iraqi and 14 Syrian farmers, and one by 16 Iraqi and 8 Syrian extension officers, to inspect and discuss ZT research, farmer experiences with ZT, and ZT seeder fabrication across northern Syria. The groups attended three major field days with 200-350 participants in Salamiya, Kamishley and Jarjanaz. These visits greatly enhanced knowledge of ZT and effective ways to undertake participatory R, D and E with demonstrations and field days.
Seven trainees travelled to Australia on study visits focused on ZT, hay and seed production at UniAdelaide (3 participants), soil and plant nutrition at AgWA in Albany (1 participant), weed management at UniAdelaide (2 participants) and a PhD on conservation cropping at UniWA (1 participant).
During the year, project findings and research and demonstration trials were inspected and discussed with 175 farmers and staff at field days in Iraq. In Syria, 800 farmers and staff attended project field days in Salamiya, Idleb and Kamishley. At ICARDA, 100 Iraqi project staff and 300 visitors inspected and/or discussed project research trials. These visits exposed the project and ZT technology widely in the region and beyond. As an example, the Minister for Agriculture from Lebanon visited in mid-May 2010 and was surprised and impressed that crops could be grown with ZT and stubble retention; he has since requested specifications of project-developed ZT seeders and manufacturer details and plans to purchase seeders to promote ZT R&D in Lebanon.
The project generated considerable publicity and media coverage in Australia, with three articles published in development magazines and many reports in the rural press and on ABC radio and TV, including features on Late Night Live, Bush Telegraph and Landline. Detailed project information including project documents, reports and presentations is available through the ICARDA web site (http://www.icarda.cgiar.org/ACIAR/Index.htm).
Since ZT technology was first exposed and introduced into Iraq by the previous project in 2006-07, the known area of ZT crops has increased to 1,800ha in 2009-10.In project-related development in Syria where the technology was similarly little known or tested, total ZT area from project interactions was about 8,000-10,000ha in 2009-10. A further 700ha of ZT crops was grown in research and development projects involving Syrian research and extension groups. ICARDA grew about 200ha of ZT crops in trials and rotation/seed production areas. The on-going increase in awareness, research and development on the technology, the keen involvement of manufacturers and farmers in ZT seeder fabrication and testing and taking up ZT, and the higher yields and lower costs being experienced, provide a good foundation and confidence for wider adoption and impact. The more favourable year in 2009-10 has encouraged farmer enthusiasm and confidence in Ninevah and Syria.

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 cultivars and better crop management. Project activity is focussed in Ninevah Governorate.
The objectives are:
1. To demonstrate and promote uptake of “best-bet” improved varieties and crop management systems for wheat, barley and pulse and forage legumes
2. To evaluate and select new, improved germplasm of wheat, barley and pulse and forage legumes for promotion in demonstration programs
3. To evaluate and select new, improved crop management technologies for promotion in demonstration programs
4. To facilitate agricultural planning and development through utilisation of GIS and crop modelling
5. To develop, evaluate and promote efficient and sustainable local seed production and supply systems
6. To monitor and evaluate adoption and impacts of project technologies, and identify enabling policy options to enhance uptake by farmers
7. To enhance capacity of Iraqi research and extension programs to develop and promote improved conservation cropping technologies.
The second project reporting/planning meeting was held at ICARDA on 19-23 September 2010, with 45 participants: 30 from Iraq, 3 from Australia and 12 from ICARDA. 2008-09 activities and achievements were presented and the 2009-10 workplan developed/agreed.
In Ninevah, demonstrations of ZT versus traditional cultivation with high and low seed rates with barley, bread wheat and durum wheat were established at 13 locations with 13 farmers. Chickpea was included at the Al Kosh site. Rainfall varied from 123 to 547mm with harvests good in 10 locations. Demonstrations covered 168 ha, with 161ha of ZT.
Numbers of farmers and areas of ZT outside the demonstrations were as follows:
- 20 farmers grew 5135ha of ZT using their modified local seeders
- 1 farmer grew 30ha of ZT using a new ZT seeder made by farmers/Riad Hamdoun Engineering Mosul
- 6 farmers grew 483ha of ZT crops using the three 4m-wide trailed ZT tine seeders from Syria
- area grown using 14 new Syrian seeders funded by USA project in Twajna, Hamdania unreported
Overall, 6000ha of ZT crops were grown by 54 farmers in Ninevah. About 80% of this area was actual adoption, by farmers using their own or a rented/borrowed ZT seeder.
Field days were held in Ninevah at demonstration sites in Al Namroud on 14 May, Al Kosh on 15-6 May and Tel Kief on 23-24 May, with some 120 farmers and technicians attending from Ninevah and neighbouring Anbar, Kirkuk and Wasit Governorates. There were presentations and inspections of ZT demonstrations with wheat, barley, lentil, chickpea and lentil; seed rate comparisons; and new oat and pea crop introductions. Farmers were very interested in local ZT seeders and the excellent performance of ZT crops.
In linked participatory extension in Syria, farmer demonstrations were established in 11 locations across north and west Syria. Some 450+ farmers established 15,000+ha of ZT crops. About 70% of this area was actual adoption, by farmers using their own or a rented or borrowed ZT seeder. The rest was sown with local ZT seeders provided without cost or charge by ICARDA, Aga Khan Foundation and Aleppo Agricultural Machinery Center.
Autumn field days were held in Syria in October-November at 9 Aga Khan on-farm demonstration sites at planting of ZT/CC treatments. A spring field day planned on 3 May for the Extension Training Course was cancelled due to security concerns and replaced with visits to Aga Khan farmers and the GCSAR Research Station in Salamiya.
Some ZT farmer fields, as well as research trials at ICARDA, were used during training courses involving Iraqi and Syrian researchers, extension officers and farmers, and for many visitors, to inspect and discuss ZT. It was a first exposure for many to trials and demonstrations on crop management issues such as ZT, low seed rates and early planting and they were impressed by possibilities for improved yields and reduced costs.
In Ninevah, 33 research trials were conducted, with 23 at UniMosul and SBAR on evaluation of elite lines and varieties of wheat, barley, chickpea, lentil, faba bean, vetch, lathyrus, oats and peas and 10 at UniMosul on crop management involving weed surveys, hardpan amelioration, press wheels, ZT vs CC/herbicide comparisons in wheat and irrigation-fertilizer responses in peas. Trials grew well with harvesting in May/June.
At ICARDA, 14 trials for ZT technology verification/refinement and Iraqi scientist and farmer training were conducted on: crop and variety performance under ZT and CC; time, seed rate and depth of sowing; evaluation of alternative crops (oilseeds, oats, peas); and increasing wheat frequency in wheat-lentil-camelina rotations. All trials established and grew well with 259mm of rain. Growth was generally better from ZT than CC and early than late sowing. Cereals and legumes did best with early planting, 50-100kg/ha seed rate, 4-8cm seeding depth, and press wheels. Trials were harvested in May/June.
In Iraq, local ZT seeder fabrication continued with the Ninevah farmer group Eighteen ZT modification kits costing $1,200 were made with 17 fitted to farmer seeders and one given to the University of Mosul for teaching. These 17 new seeders, plus the 3 prototypes made earlier, were used to sow 5135ha of ZT crops. A new 2.3m ZT seeder for small farmers was fabricated by the farmer group together with Riad Hamdoun Engineering in Mosul and used to sow 30ha on one farmer field. The farmer group set up and registered the “Mosul Conservation Farming Group” and hopes to interact with other No Till Farmer’s Associations.
In Syria, collaboration on ZT seeder fabrication was expanded to include 3 more manufacturers in north eastern Syria, who all produced excellent ZT seeders. There are now 7 manufacturers in Syria, which provides more diversity and locations for purchase and maintenance by Syrian and Iraqi farmers and projects. Between 2008 to mid-2011, Syrian manufacturers had made 65 ZT seeders for local and regional clients.
Major efforts by DOA, UniMosul and SBAR to develop on-farm seed production continued. Spike/line selection and production of foundation seed of wheat and barley varieties continued. New varieties from ICARDA were introduced into the program. The 21 VBSE farmer seed growers planted 100t of certified durum wheat purchased with funds provided by the Ninevah Governor and 83t of seed produced in 2009-10 and expect, with access to irrigation, to harvest over 1820t of seed. This would exceed the project target of 9 VBSE groups producing 100t of seed.
Major efforts were also made to undertake the socio-economic survey on adoption and impact of project technologies (especially ZT) and technical and financial aspects of farmer seed production. Following the training course on surveying and data collection at ICARDA in February, participating UniMosul and DOA staff arranged and coordinated surveys to collect data from 500 farmers, from demonstration locations and from seed producers. Surveying is proceeding following harvest and, once data is assembled in Ninevah, it will be analysed and evaluated in Baghdad.
In capacity enhancement at ICARDA, there were 73 Iraqi scientist and technician training visits with 43 participating in 6 formal training courses and 30 in the annual meeting where one Australian collaborator gave a seminar on achievements of the ACIAR Project on enhancing profitability, production and quality of wheat in India. This training, with Australian partners delivering two of the courses and an Iraqi partner delivering one, was focused on specific priority areas for the project: Photography and presentations; Seed enterprises and marketing; Socio-economic surveying and evaluation; ZT seeder design, fabrication and operation; Variety identification, maintenance and seed production; and Participatory extension. In addition, 24 scientists, farmers and machinery manufacturers from Syria and North Africa also participated in the ZT and extension courses. The mix of trainees from different countries provides rich exchange of experiences and ideas.
Two visits, one by 9 Iraqi, 13 Syrian, and 5 North African/Turkish scientists and seeder manufacturers for ZT seeder training, and the other by 13 Iraqi and 6 Syrian extension officers for participatory extension training, which involved field visits to collaborating machinery manufacturers, farmers, extension offices and research stations, were valuable in enhancing knowledge of ZT seeders and effective participatory R, D and E.
Eleven Iraqis and 2 Syrians travelled to Australia on study visits and post-graduate training. After long delays, one PhD and 4 MSc students started English studies and research proposal development in January-February 2011 in preparation for enrolment at the Universities of Adelaide and Western Australia. Following English evaluation, it is clear that language training will take at least 12-18 months rather than the allowed 6 months.
Six Iraqi and 2 Syrian extension officers/researchers undertook an extension/zero tillage study visit to Western Australia in August/September 2010, visiting research and extension centres and participating in field days.
Unfortunately, 3 trainees who travelled in May-June 2010 to Australia on a weed management study visit to the University of Adelaide (2) and a conservation cropping PhD to the University of Western Australia (1) had difficulty settling into their studies and returned to Iraq in August, before training was completed.
Project activities and developments were communicated to scientists, farmers, students, policy makers and the public in many ways. ICARDA receives a large number of visitors each year; many were shown project R & D activities with selected groups also travelling outside ICARDA to visit local ZT seeder manufacturers and farmers adopting ZT.
The project generated considerable publicity and media coverage in Australia, following visits by journalists from the ABC and Cosmos Science magazine. Detailed project information including project documents, reports and presentations was updated on the ICARDA web site (http://www.icarda.cgiar.org/ACIAR/Index.htm).
The project collaborated with Syrian Extension and Research Directorates to develop an extension/demonstration film for TV to raise farmer awareness of conservation cropping and its benefits for local agriculture. The 18 minute film, in Arabic, is excellent and was broadcast regularly on Syrian TV before autumn planting. DVDs were distributed to Iraqi trainees and other visitors.
Since ZT technology was first exposed and introduced into Iraq by the previous project in 2006-07, the known area of ZT crops has increased to about 6,000ha in 2010-11. In project-related development in Syria where the technology was similarly little known or tested, total ZT area from project interactions was about 15,000ha in 2010-11. The on-going increase in awareness, research and development of the technology, the keen involvement of manufacturers and farmers in ZT seeder fabrication and testing and taking up ZT, and the higher yields and lower costs being experienced, provide a good foundation and confidence for wider adoption and impact. In Iraq, interest and visits from other Governorates are spreading ZT technology beyond Ninevah.
The project has greatly increased awareness and experience of ZT technology. The Ministries of Agriculture in both Iraq and Syria are considering adoption of conservation cropping as a major platform for future dryland cropping systems development.

The second phase of this project ended in June 2011 and a bridging extension of A$400,000 for 1 July 2011 to 30 September 2011, plus a no-cost extension from 1 October 2011 to 30 June 2012 were provided by ACIAR. This meant that the project teams were kept together in the 2010/11 year and work supported on-going activities under the objectives of the project.
The overall aim of this project was 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 (ZT), stubble retention, improved crop cultivars and better crop management. In the first two phases of the project activity were focussed in the Ninevah Governorate, with satellite activities in northern Syria.
Despite increasing civil unrest in Syria and ongoing security issues in Iraq, project activities continued on technology transfer, research, seed production, adoption/impact analysis, and training related to development and promotion of conservation cropping systems in northern Iraq. Farmer demonstrations of ZT using locally manufactured or modified seeders were expanded from 12 to 21 districts in Ninevah and extended into new governorates of Anbar, Salahaldin, and Kirkuk. In Syria, demonstrations continued throughout northern and eastern cropping provinces and districts. Dry conditions limited yield potentials in northern Iraq, but the season was exceptionally good in Syria. In all cases, growth and yields with ZT were as good as conventional cultivation, and in many cases yield was significantly better. Independent demonstrations and field days were also conducted by several motivated Ninevah farmers, without formal input or funding from the project, and a group of farmers have requested permission from the Ministry of Agriculture to form a ZT Farmer Group, similar to groups formed in Australia and elsewhere.
Adoption of ZT continued to expand in both Iraq and Syria in 2011/12. Estimates of ZT adoption in Ninevah are about 70 farmers sowing about 7,800ha, an increase of 30% from the previous year. Among 338 Ninevah farmers surveyed (35 using ZT) yields were increased and costs reduced, and technical efficiency was increased by 12% on average though the adoption of ZT and early sowing. Surveys conducted in Syria during 2011/12 showed adoption by 537 farmers sowing 20,574ha (652 fields), however access to all regions was not possible. Total adoption is thought to exceed 30,000ha, which is double the area in the previous year. A robust socio-economic survey of 820 Syrian farmers (320 using ZT) was conducted which showed an average reduction in seed and fuel costs of 30% plus an average yield increase of 22%, leading to a 50% increase in gross margin with the adoption of the conservation cropping package. Apart from higher family incomes, reduced cultivation also provided more time for non-agricultural work and activities. The net economic benefit of the adoption of conservation cropping due to additional farmer income was estimated to be up to US$2.7 million in Iraq and US$6.6 million in Syria in 2011/12.
Field experiments were successfully conducted at Tel Hadya (Syria), where growing conditions were excellent, and Ninevah (Iraq) where rainfall was well below average. Results from these trials reinforce the general conservation cropping agronomic package developed in the second phase of the project for this region i.e. minimise soil disturbance by sowing into undisturbed soil using a ZT seeder, sow as early possible with the best varieties available, and use seed rates of 80-100kg/ha for cereals. Improvements in soil fertility (increased water infiltration, porosity, organic matter and phosphorus) were also documented in a trial where conservation cropping had been adopted for six years.
In Ninevah, the University of Mosul has established a Centre of Excellence in Conservation Agriculture and is leading training on ZT cropping systems within northern Iraq. Postgraduate training of the six Iraqi students continued in Australia. Eight project collaborators attended the 5th World Congress on Conservation Agriculture, Brisbane Australia, and papers and presentations were given on ZT modification of seeders in Iraq by Mr Sinan Jalili, an Iraqi farmer collaborator, and on ZT development/promotion in Iraq and Syria by Dr Colin Piggin. Six of these collaborators also undertook a pre-congress tour of ZT farms, research sites and machinery facilities in South Australia.
In collaboration with partners in ICARDA and Australia, Syrian machinery suppliers continued to manufacture and improve affordable local ZT seeders. Iraqi counterparts also further developed their kits to modify existing seeders for ZT with locally manufactured knife-points and press wheels, together with locally-available or imported tines. This has been an important factor in driving adoption, as imported seeders are too expensive and large for small farmers in the region. The number of ZT seeders in Syria is now 104 and numbers in Iraq exceed 50.
During the 2011/12 bridging phase, a proposal to continue the project during the third phase from July 2012 to June 2015 was prepared and approved by ACIAR. This phase will build on and consolidate development and uptake of ZT technology in Ninevah and spread it more widely in surrounding dryland governorates of Kirkuk, Salahahdin and Anbar.
Following an evacuation of international staff from Aleppo in July 2012, the project will be managed from ICARDA’s Amman office with relevant trial work and training programs shifted to Jordan and Erbil, Iraq. Depending on the security situation in Syria, it is hoped long-term tillage and selected agronomy trials at ICARDA Tel Hadya can be maintained. Dr Stephen Loss (from Western Australia) has been appointed as the new project leader.

The project leader for the third phase of the project joined ICARDA in July 2012, and a project instigation meeting was conducted in Amman where the previous progress was reviewed, objectives discussed, and a comprehensive work plan developed.
In the autumn of 2012, 29 zero-tillage (ZT) demonstrations were established in farmer fields throughout the Ninevah governorate in Iraq, and for the first time two or three demonstrations were sown in Kirkuk, Salahaddin and Anbar. Three major spring field days were held at Singar, Alqush and Telkief, which were attended by a total of 100 farmers and 50 staff - other smaller field walks were also conducted at other demonstration sites. A brief inventory of farmers in Ninevah indicated the area of conservation cropping continues to grow from 7,800ha last season to 10,800ha in 2012/13. In May, 25 new extensionists were appointed by the Ministry of Agriculture in Ninevah who will specialise on working with farmers to promote conservation cropping. While it was not possible to contact all conservation cropping farmer groups established in Syria during the previous phase of the project, many are continuing to operate despite the civil unrest. Fuel shortages restricted farming operations. However, this is proving to be a driver of adoption. In one case, a farmer stated that he was able to sow four times the area of crop with his ZT seeder compared to conventional methods requiring plowing because of a limited supply of fuel.
In Ninevah, various field experiments on weed management, row spacing, seed rate, variety improvement and other crop management factors were instigated by the University of Mosul and State Board of Agricultural Research (SBAR). Due to deteriorating conditions within Syria, there was restricted access to ICARDA’s long term field experiments near Aleppo, but tillage treatments were completed by the beginning of November. Sowing with a cover crop was only possible in February, but the integrity of the experiments remains intact. To substitute for experiments and training which could not be conducted in Syria, project staff was able to travel safely to Erbil in the Iraq Kurdistan Region (IKR) on numerous occasions, where they established links with the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources. Subsequently, four new experiments were established at the Ankawa Research Centre in Erbil where seasonal conditions were favourable and good yields are expected. Successful training courses were also conducted in Erbil on ZT seeder calibration and operation (18 trainees) and data management and statistical analysis in Amman (11 trainees). Three new experiments were also established at Maru Research Station in Jordan, however, yields are expected to be low despite good rainfall due to a number of management issues. Research staff at the University of Western Australia and the University of Adelaide were appointed in early 2013 and field experimental activities in Australia have commenced.
Considerable progress was made in the development of locally-manufactured ZT seeders. In Mosul a group of innovative farmers/manufacturers completed a prototype 2m ZT seeder, and this was tested in the field by machinery experts at the University of Mosul and later in Erbil. The manufacture of 8-12 improved ZT seeders is currently underway and parts have been ordered to convert 20 existing conventional seeders to ZT for the coming season in Iraq. In Amman, the project team worked with Rama Manufacturing to complete its first prototype 4m ZT seeder, which was tested at Maru Research Station where it proved to be as effective as other more expensive imported seeders. Rama is currently working on the manufacture of a 2m prototype ZT seeder before starting a commercial production run.
For the first time in Iraq, ministerial approval was granted for the multiplication of pioneer seed by private farmers, and elite lines of wheat and barley were included in demonstrations of ZT sowing. The compilation of previous socio economic and biological data and a literature review of survey methodology and analysis are almost complete. A new farmer household survey has been formulated to act as a baseline in the new Iraqi governorates and to monitor adoption in Ninevah, which will be implemented in September 2013.
Opportunistic training was also conducted by project staff in Jordan and Erbil, and the project contributed to ICARDA/JICA training in Erbil on conservation agriculture. Most of the six Iraqi students studying at the University of Western Australia and the University of Adelaide have completed their English training and have commenced their postgraduate courses.
In summary, the project is progressing well, despite ongoing civil unrest in Syria and Iraq, and most planned outputs and outcomes have been achieved following the relocation of ICARDA staff from Syria to Jordan and other regional offices. Following the establishment of good relationships and establishment of field experiments and training in Erbil, the project plans to expand these activities at this location during 2013/14.

Project ID
CIM/2008/027
Project Country
Inactive project countries
Commissioned Organisation
International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, Syria
Project Leader
Dr Stephen Loss
Email
Phone
+963-21-2691-2743 or 221-3433
Fax
+963-21-222-5105
Collaborating Institutions
University of Western Australia, Australia
Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia, Australia
State Board of Agricultural Research, Iraq
University of Adelaide, Australia
Ministry of Agriculture, Iraq
Directorate of Agriculture, Iraq
University of Mosul, Iraq
Project Budget
$10,947,484.00
Start Date
01/07/2008
Finish Date
30/06/2011
Extension Start Date
01/07/2011
Extension Finish Date
30/06/2015
ACIAR Research Program Manager
Dr Eric Huttner