A research team from the Institute of Environmental and Water Studies at Birzeit University, consisting of Dr. Rashid Al-Saed, Ghadeer Arafa, Tariq Aqhash and Muhammad Hatim, in cooperation with Dr. Faisal Aziz from the University of Cadi Ayadi in Morocco, preparing hydrogel locally in the university's laboratories and developing it in an agricultural field, as part of the activities of the project "Evaluation of wastewater treatment and the promotion of smart irrigation systems in the environmentally friendly Middle East and North Africa MENARA", funded by the DUPC2 program Dutch.
The project aims to study the reuse of reclaimed water to irrigate crops using the developed hydrogel material, due to its distinction and its ability to absorb and retain large quantities of water for agricultural use, in addition to removing the remnants of some industrial pollutants in the reclaimed water.
Due to the spread of the Coronavirus and the closure imposed by the pandemic, the research team faced a number of challenges, which were the preparation of hydrogel using remote communication techniques inside laboratories and agricultural fields, due to the closure imposed by the Corona pandemic that prevented the arrival of Dr. Aziz from Morocco, in addition to the closure of the borders and international trade, which led to the replacement of the "cactus flower" recommended for use in production, in order to use the locally produced aloe vera plant.
During this work, an evaluation study of selected seeds, namely maize and millet seeds, was conducted inside the university's laboratories, in addition to establishing an experimental field to reach statistical results after irrigation of the selected plants using field cultivation, and assessing the growth of plants using reclaimed water within the experimental station that was established using Wetland processor technology, pine water as a point of control and assessment of the quality and quantity of irrigated crop products.
The team will monitor the plants taking into account shape (such as plant height and stem diameter), measure ripeness (such as flowering time and fruit ripening), plant quality (such as fruit size and color), and organoleptic and productive aspects (such as the total biomass of the fruit). Selected and important primary and secondary receptors for human nutrition and health protection (such as polysaccharides and polyphenols) as other indicators of fruit quality will also be analyzed, following the analytical protocols available in international phytology. The process will be monitored during the next two months for results to appear.
This stage will be followed by a study on the social and economic levels, measuring the extent to which farmers and consumers accept the use of "improved hydrogel" in laboratories, which is environmentally friendly in the agricultural products used, and exploring marketing opportunities at the local and regional levels, and adopting these results and studies as recommendations for local and international policies with policy and decision makers in the sector. Water and agriculture in Palestine, Morocco and Tunisia as regions included in the Middle East and North Africa region.