Though Hashem is certainly the ultimate control of success
in everything and especially agriculture, Israeli
agribusiness is doing extensive hishtadlus and
revolutionary changes in current Israeli agriculture stem
from the accelerated development of research in the various
fields of agriculture. The continuing water crisis is
putting intense pressure on agriculture, including some
calls to phase out certain crops like cotton and citrus
which use a lot of water, but the Israeli agriculture
industry is working hard to give answers.
Advanced methods of irrigation and the study of the precise
needs of various crops have led to more efficient use of
water. In addition, cotton crops and various strains of
avocado and mango have been introduced, along with "plasti-
culture" for growing plants underneath plastic coverings.
Since the introduction of plasti-culture, fruits and
vegetables which ripen naturally in the summer may also be
made to ripen in the winter.
These innovations have brought about a revolution in Israeli
agriculture, which doubles its produce each 10-15 years --
amazingly -- using about the same quantities of water and
land. Today's farmers produce double the harvest of ten
years ago with no increase in water usage.
Research and development have led to the introduction of
previously unknown species to Israel's agricultural
repertoire, including avocado, mango, cotton, and kiwi. The
R & D has also enabled off-season growth of various crops,
enabling export of summer produce such as tomatoes, peppers,
strawberries, melons and flowers to Europe during the winter
when there is a great demand for such produce.
One example out of many in which the rapid implementation of
knowledge developed by research proved effective, is the
growing of the dwarf carnation. This flower wasn't grown
intensively in Israel until 1970. However, professional
economic studies showed that Israel had a great advantage
over other countries in the cultivation of this type of
flower which requires intense light and thus cannot grow in
Europe during the winter season.
One of the main factors which limited the success of this
flower was the presence of viruses harming flower quality.
In light of this, an extensive project to cultivate the
dwarf carnations began in Israel. Studies conducted in the
Vulcani Center developed virus-free plants which excelled in
the level of their yield and the quality of the flowers.
Rapid implementation of these findings, the adoption of
modern fertilizing methods, and development of a marketing
system brought results in 3-4 years. This thriving branch
currently exports 350 million flowers a year!
An additional example of a crop previously unknown in the
Mediterranean region is the avocado, which was brought from
Central America and adapted successfully to Israel, where it
has become one of the country's leading exports.
Israeli agricultural produce that was exported to Europe
thirty years ago originated from off-season undercover crops
grown under plastic sheets. But the success of the export of
fresh, off-season produce to the European market was
contingent to a great extent upon the quality of the produce
once it reached the European markets. Thus, the fruit's
ripening process and its rate of spoilage after harvest were
subject to intense study.
Despite the great success of the marketing of Israel
agricultural produce to the European market, difficult
problems cropped up. Each fruit or vegetable sent to Europe
spurred competitors to copy the exported item. Only a short
time passed -- 6-8 years for vegetables and 10 years in the
flower business -- until farmers in Spain, Portugal, and
North Africa began to grow and market the very same produce
developed in Israel, such as melons, peppers, strawberries
and cloves, even when these were special strains that were
originally developed in Israel, such as the Galia melon.
Recently there has been extensive planting of avocado in
Spain, for example.
Spain especially, enjoys a basic advantage over Israel due
to its proximity to the rest of Europe. Israeli produce has
to travel from packaging house to port to European port --
and from there to wholesale markets. The Spanish grower on
the other hand, merely trucks his produce directly to French
or German markets.
In light of this situation, new considerations in the
policies of agricultural research and development in Israel
have come into play. The first to be considered was the fact
that the market life of a new product is limited, since a
new product immediately spurs potential competitors to
imitation. Policy makers had to take into account that the
period in which Israeli growers can have an exclusive on
vegetables and flowers meant for export as fresh produce,
lasts no more than eight years, while the exclusive period
of new fruits is a bit longer and can last up to ten.
It is a good idea, then to develop new fruits and vegetables
to fill-in for existing ones that will become less
profitable. That is easier to achieve with flowers and house
plants than with fruits and vegetables. The possibilities of
diversification in flowers are nearly unlimited. Unique
strains of citrus fruits, and perhaps peaches and apples, by
means of new methods such as the growing of fruits in
nurseries could also prove advantageous.
Every year, 450 million dollars worth of agricultural
products -- mainly fodder seeds, wheat, and oil seeds -- are
brought in to Israel. Animal feed in Israel, both in the
barn and in the chicken coop, is based mainly on imported
materials. As a result, extensive research has been invested
in seeking alternatives for these imports. Concomitantly,
researchers are studying new methods of mechanization in
order to improve the efficiency of agricultural work as well
as to promote additional export branches and agricultural
Foreign markets are currently displaying a demand for Israel-
developed automated, computer-controlled irrigation systems.
In the future, increased harvest ratios will be in the hands
of those with hi tech knowledge.