March and April are the driest months in Bangladesh. During this time, up to 880,000 hectares of land is left fallow because of the intrusion of saltwater into the soil.
Bangladesh is benefiting from new research into how to make this land productive during the dry season. Using simple drip irrigation technology on raised planting beds, tomato farmers were able to increase their yields fourfold by leeching salts out of the root zone of the plants. Water for the drip irrigation is taken from ponds set up to collect rainwater. As a result, salinity levels drop to less than 30% of levels typically recorded.
Researchers at the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) in conjunction with the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) determined that this innovative farming practice had a benefit-cost ratio of 4.71. This means that for every dollar (or Bangladeshi taka) invested in the technology, it would return $4.71 extra in profits.
The extra yields could help feed the country’s 140 million people or could be sold as a cash crop to generate incomes.