Food Challenges



Conveners: Aaron Fait, BGU and Nurit Agam, BIDR


The session will aim at gathering scientists from Israel and abroad, to discuss themes related to Grapevine, Viticulture sustainability and Climate uncertainty, Grapevine AgroEcology and Molecular physiology, Vineyard Micro-metereology and Grapevine Omics. Special attention will be dedicated to discuss 'data collection and integration' to enhance decision making processes and strategies.

Grapevine is one of the most important perennial crops in the world, and in the Mediterranean region specifically. However, grapevine production and fruit quality are highly dependent on climatic factors, fresh-water availability and dedicated agro-techniques. Grapevine has a complex interaction with the environment, for instance it tolerates relatively high water loss, saline soil, elevated midday temperatures and strong solar radiation. On the other hand, these very same factors cause chemical shifts in the plant, entailing negative consequences on fruit yield, chemical composition and wine quality and making viticulture and enology in a changing climate, and specifically in arid land, not trivial. In Europe, recurrent unexpected climate events, e.g. rainfall shortage, hail, and heatwaves, during the summer have prompted the introduction of agrotechnologies previously not needed. Drip and computerized fertigation are in expansion in regions of France, Spain, and Italy, and are a common practice in large areas in the United States. In Israel, arid regions are the new frontier of viticulture, recognized by large wineries. Here, in spite of a thriving tradition of “intelligent" irrigation, the use of herbicides and fertilizers exacerbate the soil deterioration process in the vineyards. The proposed session aims to bring together experts from multiple disciplines to explore the complex interaction between the vine and its environment, the very basis of the terroir concept and how to wisely implement agrotechniques to enhance sustainability of wine production.



Convener: Yoav Avni, Geological Survey of Israel


Arid and semi-arid regions globe wide are currently under an aggressive soil erosion phase, causing escalating rates of agricultural soils degradation. This process is rapidly developed into a world-wide disaster undermining food security, promoting social instability among rural communities. These destructive processes are often attributed to land mismanagement, overgrazing and recent climate change, leading to desertification of vast areas in almost all continents. However, increasing volume of field observations in desert ecosystems globe wide indicate that most of the present arable soils developed some 70,000-24,000 years BP, mainly during the Late Pleistocene glacial period (OIS 4 and 3). These soils developed in agreement with past environments and climates. As the climate shifted to form the present day Holocene climate, these soils became unstable. Therefore, the current phase of massive soil erosion is promoted by geological-scale environmental shift, initiated long before human intervention became significant in the environment. As this process was already fully active during historical times, ancient desert societies took actions to combat soil erosion and to conserve the agricultural potential of their arable lands. In light of their huge efforts for land conservation aimed to achieve food security, as documented in the archeological record, we call for better evaluation of past environments and human activities. This will allowed the improvement of modern strategies for combating desertification, based on better understanding of the deep roots of desertification processes.

This session is dedicated to papers focused on various aspects of long-term records of environmental degradation in drylands. We invite contributions from different disciplines: geology, geomorphology, soil sciences, ecology, archeology, agriculture and more which (i) introduce new data and techniques to quantify and compare components of natural aspects of desertification in various datasets; (ii) identify patterns (in time/ space) of these aspects between different dryland environments; (iii) test key assumptions and predictions of long-term desertification process aiming to improve strategists to combat present desertification processes.



Convener: Zipora Tietel, ARO


Overview: The food industry, relying on the agricultural system, is responsible for feeding 8 Billion people in 2025, and 10 billion in 2050. In addition to increasing population, it is also to face challenges resulting from environmental changes limiting its resources, including farming land area, water and energy. To successfully confront such demanding conditions, new technologies need to be developed and harnessed, to enable food security, safety and quality. Some companies have already presented cutting-edge solutions for crucial issues e.g. alternative protein in replacement of animal products, advanced packaging, delivery platforms and online spoilage detection to decrease food waste, and new functional foods with enhanced health benefits. The current session will present and discuss food-related challenges, and the industry approaches and technologies in facing them.



Co-Conveners: Eran Raveh, ARO, and Or Sperling, ARO


Empirical modeling of plants’ responses to climate is an established tool to precise farming in semi-arid conditions, where weather and yields are highly variable. Now, these models are needed to support decisions to ensure that farms sustain and profit as environmental conditions change. We propose a session that focuses on the latest advances in models of the interactions between plants and their environment, and the integration of mechanistic plant physiology (e.g., nutrients’ allocation, water-use-efficiency, and carbohydrate management) into such models.



Chairpersons: Prof. Simon Barak, BIDR and Prof. Naftali Lazarovitch, BIDR


In the Virtual Food Tour, we will visit researchers at the various institutions in the Negev. The researchers will show the audience how they are generating knowledge and technologies to cope with the expected global food challenges. The video clips will be accompanied by a discussion moderated by Prof. Simon Barak and Prof. Naftali Lazarovitch. Throughout the session it will be possible to pose questions via the Zoom chat function.

  1. Prof. Aaron Fait, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
  2. Prof. Moshe Sagi, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
  3. Prof. Noemi Tel-Zur, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
  4. Dr Vered Tzin, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
  5. Prof. Dina Zilberg, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
  6. Prof. Pedro Berliner, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
  7. Prof. Sammy Boussiba, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
  8. Dr Rivka Ofir, The Dead Sea-Arava Science Center
  9. Dr Alon Ben-Gal, Agricultural Research Organization
  10. Dr Arnon Dag, Agricultural Research Organization
  11. Dr Ran Erel, Agricultural Research Organization
  12. Dr Yuval Kaye, Ramat Negev Research and Development
  13. Dr Eran Raveh, Agricultural Research Organization (ARO), Volcani Center, Israel



Convener: Dr. Dhermesh Verma, Global Head - Technical, RNZ International