Wageningen University & Research (WUR) embarked on a project in Lebanon last spring to improve water efficiency in horticulture and increase production. The greenhouse horticulture experts at WUR built a special demonstration greenhouse at the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute research site in the Bekaa Valley.

The project carried out by WUR contributes to sustainable food provision in an area that suffers from substantial droughts in summer. An additional advantage is that the project offers employment opportunities for Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

Improved ventilation

In the past few months, the project team at WUR developed a greenhouse whose design is based on local weather conditions and which is affordable for local entrepreneurs. The greenhouse creates optimum cultivation conditions while taking into account the local climate. The sides of the adaptive greenhouse designed by WUR can be opened in their entirety, resulting in ventilation possibilities that far exceed those provided by the traditional foil tunnel.

Three steps of cultivation

The insect mesh inside the custom-designed WUR greenhouse reduces the possibility of damage from insects. As a result, fewer crop protection agents are needed. A passive heating system that works according to the same principle as a hot water bottle ensures that the temperature in the greenhouse does not drop too far in early spring. By growing crops in the open field in the traditional manner as well as on a substrate, WUR is showing local growers how to make the switch from growing crops on soil in the traditional manner to growing crops on substrate in a well-ventilated greenhouse in three innovative steps.

Extra employment possibilities

The results produced by the innovations applied by WUR in the special greenhouse are not limited to lower water consumption, improved pest control and higher yields. Thanks to a higher yield, there is a greater demand for workers to assist in the labour-intensive cultivation work in the greenhouse. This increases employment opportunities for Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

Initial results

Robinson, a greenhouse builder in Lebanon, hopes to deliver the project with favourable weather conditions this winter. The initial results can be shared this winter with local farmers. The project is executed in Lebanon in conjunction with the Greenhouse Horticulture business unit of Wageningen University & Research and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Source: Wageningen University & Research.