As overgrazing and other human-induced factors continue to put considerable pressure on rangelands, the predominant landscape in Central Asia, scientists work towards solutions to slow down and reverse the negative impact of human activity. Due to increased demand for food, feed and wood fuel, many rangeland areas in the region are poorly managed. For example, 24m ha of rangelands, or 13.2 per cent of the total, are believed to be degraded to varying degrees in Kazakhstan. This figure exceeds 90 per cent of the total, or 3.7m ha, in Tajikistan. In Uzbekistan over 40 per cent of dryland rangelands have different levels of degradation. These areas are characterized by lower yields, inefficient livestock management and outdated infrastructure. As a result, livestock production, a key source of income for rural communities, is also at risk.
One way to solve the problem is cultivating plants that are tolerant of salinity, drought and heat. And a new book that has recently come out looks at one such plant: Kochia prostrata (L.) Schrad, also known as prostrate summer cypress. Kochia prostrata is a long-lived, perennial, semi-evergreen, semi-shrub well adapted to the temperate, semiarid and arid regions. The book1 is a product of more than ten years of research and field trial by scientists from the International Center for Bioslaine Agriculture (ICBA) and the researchers of the Uzbek Institute of Karakul Sheep Husbandry and Desert Ecology. It includes new information obtained by the authors during experimental and laboratory research, including information on yield capacity, reproduction, germplasm evaluation, breeding program, seed morphology and ecology, dormancy and methods of breaking dormancy with stimulating substances and physical treatments. The authors also compiled and generalized all materials on the fodder properties of Kochia forage species, including new and unpublished data.
Studies have shown that forage of Kochia species is very palatable and nutritious, especially from late summer through winter. The book discusses the potential of using perennial chenopods in pure stands or mixed with other forage shrubs for rehabilitation of degraded rangelands in arid and semiarid zones of Uzbekistan. It also presents detailed research results on fodder characteristics (yield capacity, time and rate of consumption by ruminants and what type of ruminants, period of use under the grazing, value of hay as fodder; chemical composition and nutrition value, response to grazing, aftergrass/aftermath ability, specification for experiments in cultivation) and its previously tested, as well as the genetic structure of different populations and adaptability of Kochia species.
Innovative selection programs and various agro-technologies for seed multiplication, establishment of Kochia within natural plant communities and planting Kochia in other arid and semiarid ecosystems are also discussed in the book. The book reviews rangeland re-seeding techniques leading to improved productivity of overgrazed and degraded rangelands. It also includes recommendations on appropriate rangeland rehabilitation techniques through use of Kochia for local agropastoral communities in different arid and semiarid zones of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
It is hoped that the book will become a valuable reference for botanists, ecologists, veterinarians and rehabilitation specialists in rethinking the practice of conservation and management of dryland pastures in Uzbekistan. As the book has illustrations, it will also be accessible to practitioners like breeders, pastoralists, planters and farmers. At the same time the book can serve as a manual for teachers and students at high schools in Uzbekistan who might wish to read a course on ecology, botany, forage production and economic estimation of drought-tolerant plants.
1 Kochia prostrata (L.) Schrad - a valuable forage plant for improving the productivity of arid and semi-arid degraded rangelands in Central Asia (in Russian with an English summary). It can be downloaded at: http://www.biosaline.org/pdf/Kochia-Prostrata-Book.pdf