What characterizes Israeli agriculture, making it one of the most advances and intensive in the world, is a combination of several factors: young in years, a lack’ of wadition; the motivation of the first pioneers who came to Palestine some 100 years ago to change the mode of life of the Jewish people in the Diaspora; and, no less important the limited natural resources, which encouraged the development of modern, sophisticafed and quite often even unique agricultural technologies, particularly in the utilization ot water and soil resources.
The settlers, who emigrated to Palestine at the end of the 19th century, were a different “breed” of ideologist. Most of them came from high socio-economic back- grounds, educated and charged with idealistic spirit to do things differentdy. These factors served as a basis for the establishment of agricultural co-operatives on the one hand, and for individual entrepreneurship on the other hand. In modern day Israel this is expressed by the two systems of settlements: the co-operative system, namely, kibbutzim and moshavim, and individual farms. In both of the se agricultural sectors, the lack of experience which the first settlers faced upon arriving to a virtually barren land were, in retrospect, advantageous: the settlers were ready to try anything new, ready and willing to participate in experiments and very often themselves initiating new technologies.
Survival, in the first stage of Israel’s agri cultural development, was a powerful driving force which contributed throughout the years to the establishment of Israel’s modern agricultural infrastructure. The second generation of farmers, born into a new reality and environment, have aiready been acclaimed throughout the world as unique. The fact that farming in kibbutzim and communal moshavim was based on diversified crop management, molded farmers whose professional outlook is based on the optimal and harmonious operations of an entire agroeconomic system.
This aspect gave the Israeli expert an advantage of ac mprehensive agricultural outlook, when faced with a problem in farm management. In practice, already at an early stage in the development of the kibbutz and the moshav, the settlers realized that the agricultural structure should be diversified in order to have a chance foresuccess – both in the social and econonis aspect; and that all production were to be utilized to the optimum.
The first and foremost potential was, and still is, the human resources. Israel, in the past as well as at present, is burdened by shortage in three natural resources skilled manpower (due to it’s high cost), water and arable land which in turn led to the development of the country’s modern and
The shortage of water necessitated optimal utilization of every available drop. Each crop was thoroughly examined to determine its requirements for inputs, such as water, fertilizerscultivation methods and geographical location, in order to achieve the highest possible yield output. The second generation of farmers – both in the co-operative sector, who promoted a diversified farm management; and on the private farms, who generally concentrated farm on a single crop, such as citrus or vineyards developed and applied novel cultivation methods, particularly in irrigation, and at the same time constantly searched for new fruit and vegetable varieties.
Even before the application of the drip irrigation technology, considered one of Israel’s most significant contributions to modern agriculture in the world over, Israeli farmers employed advanced water management technologies, such as re-use of water for irrigation, and the utilization of recycled marginal wáter for irrigating in- dustrial crops, such as cotton.
The government and the several farmers’ organizations were instrumental in the various development stages of Israel’s mod- ern agriculture. This was expressed in several ways: developing new regions; planning national infrastructure – such as the National Water Carrier, which transports high quality water for home usage and for irrigation, from the Sea of Galijee in the north of Isracl, all the way down to the northern Negev, some 400km to tke south.
The government and farmers organizations supported agricultural research, on both national and local levels., The estab lishment of the Agricultural; Research Or ganization – The Volcani Center, the amalgamation of the Faculty of Agriculaure, were the majorcoRtributors to Israet’s modern agricultare the 1960s’ were the “golden age” of Israel’s agricultural research achievements. Scientists developed new varieties of fruits and vegetables, novel cultivation technologies which turned Israel into a major exporter of fruits and vegetables to Europe during the winter season. This was made possible after Israel’s farming community succeeded in supplying the country’s needs for fruits and vegetables, and as production was increased, export of fresh produce was the natural venue.
The shortage of land prompted the development of new varieties having the highest yields per given unit of land. This was expressed by intensive utilization of the soil, making it fertile, and combined cultivation methods, such as fertilization which means incorporating fertilization through the irrigation systems. Thus farmers considered irri- gation not only as a means of water transportation, but as a venue to transport the fertilizers to the plants. The fertilization technology is all computerized and computer-controlled, and is activated not by “what’s written in the book”, but.by what the plant needs at a given time. Sensitive sensors “planted” in the soil, transmit to the computer-controlled mechanism the real-time requirements of the plants, which them activate the irrigation/fertilization system.
The third problem the high cost of manpower means that labour costs in Istael are significantly higher than those in developing countries. This aspect was instrumental in the development of technologies which minimize the depended on manpower. Israeli farmers harnessed the latest technology to create and manage modern farms, on national, regional and local levels. A few examples are the electronic systems used on daity farms, giving the farmer daily information about milk yield and the health status of each cow; automatic rigation systems and mechanized harvesting and picking. Israeli engineers are credited with developing several pieces of original mechanical equipment.
Generally, Istaeli agriculture employs imponed cquipment, but there were cases when färmers and engineers initiated the adaptation of imported agricultural equipement to serve specific needs of the confons existing in the farms. Foreign martufac turers of agricultural machinary were then informed about the changes made in their original products. The human resources ror tne agrl cultural sector, and the fact that about 60% of the industries producing inputs are owned by farmers, contribute significantly to the rapid implementation of new technologies.
The moden farms are, in fact, the experimental fields situated practically around the corner from the research laboratory. There is, therefore, a direct and quick response by the farmers to any new technology, and to the adaptability and suitability of new developments. The connecting link between the farmer and the scientist is the extension service of the Ministry of Agriculture, a unique set-up compris- ing experts in virtually every fields.
These experts serve free or charge to the farmers, not by remote control from their offices, but by being personally in the field to advise the farmers, who, on the whole, are willing to be “guinea pigs There is a very short distance be- tween the researcher ánd the farmer. It is well known that a farmer will share with other farmers the results of experiments conducted on his farm, even before these results have been officially published, and good news travels fast and is shared by other farmers.
Quite often, the farmers themselves,come up with original ideas for improving culti- vation technologies, which generally contribute tot he latter’s efficiency. A good example of voluntary co operation among the farmers is the dairy Herd Book. The farmers supply the Israel Cattle Breeders Association, which complies and publishes the Heard Book, with pertinent details about their herds, knowing that sharing information will be beneficial to their farm management practices.
Israel has been very active for many years in assisting developing countries up a modem agricultural infrastructure. The practice of the Israeli experts in foreig countries has always been to work together with the farmers in the field, instructing them how best to utilize their land, natural resources, and technology.
This haś worked for the benefit of both sides, aş the farmers in
developing countries were exposed to modern agriculture whiçh helped them to produce higher and better quality yields, and Isracl was. able to sell the farmers inputs, such as irrigation systems, fertilizers, etc.