Organic Farming in the Deserts of Wadi Rum

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When traveling through the desert you expect to see sand, sand, and well, more sand! But if you happen to be going down the long desert roads in Wadi Rum, Jordan you will suddenly witness a break in the monotonous desert.

Rows and rows of what appear to be bright green crop circles dominate the landscaping. Surrounded by red-sand valleys and sharp granite and limestone peaks, bright green vegetation thrives. Causing some to wonder: are aliens to blame for this phenomenon?

Commonly referred to as the “Valley of the Moon,” Wadi Rum Organic Farms is located near the border of Saudi Arabia. While genius design plays a big role in the success of this desert farm, no aliens have been involved—at least as far as we know ;).

No, the desert isn’t any different here in Wadi Rum with hot heat and dry weather, although this swath of land does have one huge benefit. Beneath all of this barren dirt rests a large water supply, from which most of the nation depends upon. 30 to 400 meters below the surface, a subterranean aquifer exists.wadi-rum-farming-6[1]

This water is drawn up into the irrigation system and is distributed to 193 acres of circular crop fields using pivoting water nozzles.

Plastic poly tunnels are used to collect water, as a means of conservation and hydration when the weather gets particularly dry—even for the desert.wadi-rum-farming-5[5]

It wasn’t always success at Rum Farm. Established in 1986, there were many ups and downs; in fact to begin with there were just downs. After one year, the lead agriculture expert on the project had not been able to grow any vegetation, a clear sign that things might not work out at all.

Every action has a reaction in nature, and so the team held out hope that there was a way to combat the heat, drought, and high winds common of any desert.wadi-rum-farming-4[2]

Traditional farming techniques can simply rely on a knowledgeable staff, big machines, well-made water irrigation, and all of the basics. But under desert conditions, a farm needs something else in order to thrive.

What desert farms need are support species, such as succulent ground coverings and legume trees. Both of which provide the assistance necessary for foliage to flourish in the middle of a desert.wadi-rum-farming-3[6]

The trees block out the winds, provide shade against the hot heat, and help keep sand from shifting. The right kinds of trees also reduce evaporation so that the soil remains moist.

Using succulents as ground covering is also important because succulents require very little water while reducing the temperatures found in the soil. Back in ancient times, it is said that the Egyptians and Nabateans utilized similar methods, allowing them to grow vegetation in the desert.

Today, potatoes, squash, tomatoes, pomegranates, and an assortment of other vegetables are grown at Rum Farm. And it works, so much so that a large majority of Jordan’s food source originates from Rum Farm.wadi-rum-farming-2[2]

After being grown here, the food travels hours through the desert to more populated parts of the region, such as Amman, the capital of Jordan.

From a distance Rum Farm looks like a team of creepy crop circles, enough so to make you gasp in wonder. But once on the ground you can see that the vegetation is healthy, growing upwards, and has not been flattened by any alien ships cruising through the desert.

In fact, if you happen to visit Jordan, you are likely going to consume produce grown here at this unique desert farm, enjoy! wadi-rum-farming-1[2]