THE JEWISH ADVOCATE JUNE 21, 2013
Agritech revolutionized in Israel Work at Volcani Institute results in plantings around the world By Karin Kloosterman ISRAEL21c.org
Sometimes it is the simple inventions such as the zipper or bread slicer that can change everyday life for the better. The same is true in agriculture. Just covering crops with different-colored nets, for example, can actually affect plant physiology and enhance yield. Whether low-tech or hightech, countless innovations from the government-funded Volcani Agricultural Research Organization (ARO) in Israel have earned a worldwide reputation for expertise in plant sciences, plant protection, environmental sciences and herd management. Farmers can drop by Volcani’s main campus at Beit Dagan to get any help they may need, whether it’s an irrigation issue or a way to banish white flies from tomato vines without using pesticides. Much of what is learned, developed and implemented in Israel then gets planted in fields around the planet. “We provide a tight collaboration between the farmer, researchers and extension services who liaise with the farmers,” explained Ada Rafaeli, Volcani’s associate director for international cooperation and academic affairs, during a
recent tour of the center’s six institutes on what looks like a large farm with greenhouses and test plots scattered everywhere. “Sometimes the farmer is also the researcher,” she said, pointing out that Israel probably has the world’s most educated farmers, with a high percentage of them holding an undergraduate degree. Including its research centers in Neve Yaar in the north and Gilat in the Negev, the Volcani ARO employs 185 scientists and 400 engineering and technical assistants, as well as 220 graduate students. Some 40 visitors from abroad also come to the center every year to learn about and import Israeli expertise back to China, Africa or Latin America, Rafaeli explained. While its approaches based on genetic or mechanical engineering are sometimes hard to commercialize, the center finds ways to grow businesses and license Israel’s fertile know-how. Rafaeli gave ISRAEL21c a peek at some of the activity going on in Beit Dagan: The ARO has an active program that turns desert into forests, thereby reversing desertification and reducing radiation-emitting greenhouse gases. The organization has made huge advances in growing to-
Dr. Abraham Feingold of Malden Dr. Abraham Feingold, 105, of Malden, died May 4 at Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home after a brief illness.
Born and raised in Chelsea, Dr. Feingold was a podiatrist in Malden for many years. An observant Jew, he was active in Congregation Beth Israel and Young Israel of Malden. In his later years, he drove a personal motor cart to Congregation Beth Israel for morning prayers, naming his vehicle “The Minyan Mobile.” Dr. Feingold and his late wife Doris (Lipman) Feingold were active philanthropists in many Jewish organizations. He is survived by his children, Ronna Margolis and Pe-
ter Feingold; his grandchildren, Kimberly and Dan Lamas, Allison Shaievitz, Marlo and Michael Fox, and Robin and Dr. Adam Levine; and his greatgrandchildren, Zachary, Samantha, Bailee Rose and Jacob. Dr. Feingold was the brother of the late Edith Black, Dorothy Aronson, Leo Feingold, Dr. Fred Feingold, George Feingold, Reuben Feingold, Edward Feingold, Dr. Meyer Feingold and Esther Taymore. Services were held May 6 at the Goldman Funeral Chapel. Donations may be made to Congregation Beth Israel, 10 Dexter St., Malden, MA 02148.
matoes in hot climates by breeding techniques that make tomato pollen tolerant to Middle East heat stress. Volcani scientists are working on producing varieties of chickpeas with more protein per bean, sure to be popular as hummus is now a super-food sensation in the United States. Using a closed-loop system, Volcani researchers have pioneered aquaculture systems that provide fish for food, and wastewater for crops that can feed livestock. Precision agriculture is another strength of the ARO. A blanket solution does not fit every field, said Rafaeli. The organization will send out researchers to assess a field and determine where best to apply water, nutrients and pesticides — thus saving precious resources and reducing the environmental impact of conventional farming. The center also specializes in creating new wheat varieties. While Israel isn’t big enough to be a major grain provider, its technology can be exported to breadbasket regions such as those in the United States. “We are also providing the world with new varieties for animal feed,” Rafaeli said. Inside the center’s underground Gene Bank, hundreds of thousands of indigenous seeds are stored for current and
future research. Some of Israel’s ancient grains may provide the key for food of the future. Most famously, perhaps, Israel’s ARO has long been inventing new varieties of fruits and vegetables using classic breeding technologies and genetic engineering. If you come during citrus season, says Rafaeli, you can taste all the special varieties the Volcani Center is working on. One of its most cherished commercial successes is the “Or” tangerine, which peels easily, has no pits and tastes like Israeli sunshine. During one recent tour, Moshe Lapidot was working on new cultivars of tomato plants that have a genetic resistance to tomato yellow leaf curl virus, while colleague Joshuah Miron was working on finding “recycled” food substitutes for grain-fed cows in a region where grain is pro-
hibitively expensive for a dairy farm. Amnon Lichter showed how the loss of agricultural produce after harvest can be minimized through using essential oils and oxygen-starving techniques. The Volcani’s Samuel GanMor has recently revolutionized the way bugs are kept off crops, using a cooking-oil compound that gets sprayed on the leaves. Because of the work of the Volcani scientists, Israel is able to collect more milk per cow, and to raise healthier, tastier produce that grows over extended seasons and has a long shelf life. It has for many years worked with the Foreign Ministry’s MASHAV international development agency, and its Center for International Agricultural Development Cooperation, to export all of these innovations to farmers on several continents.
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