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A late start in the 1980s

    Algeria, Tunisia and Libya all started their medic work in the period 1972-3. Iraq became interested in medic in the late 1970s and the projects started in the 1980s.

    They adopted a bold approach, similar to the Libyans.

In fact the similarities were quite striking.

The Iraqi Government employed the South Australian Department of Agriculture to develop a demonstration farm near Erbil in the north. This was modelled on the farm at El Marj in Libya but considerable larger.

They employed the Western Australian Department of Agriculture to develop large scale farming in the region from Mosul to the Syrian border. This was similar to the larger blocks of the Jefara Plains authority in the west of Libya.

The two Australian teams slotted into the familiar patterns they had developed in Libya.

    The Iraqis did not employ teams of Australian farmers to carry our development work on farms. This had been one of the great successes of the Jebel al Akhdar authority in the east of Libya.

Achievements on the ground

    Both teams achieved considerable success on the ground with the establishment of medic pastures and the improvement of cereal crops.

The medic pastures suffered from the cold.

The north of Iraq has an extremely cold winter with long periods during which the ground is frozen.

Unlike Libya and Australia the medic does not grow in winter.

Some medic cultivars were damaged by the frost.

While it was obvious that local cultivars more resistant to the frost would be superior in the long term the

Australia cultivars either survived or recovered from the frost and managed to produce significantly greater amounts of pasture.

Neither of the teams came to grips with a local system of grazing management.

Again this followed the Libyan pattern.

The Western Australian team in Libya had fenced the land and imposed an Australia system.

In Iraq they did not fence the area (in fact they did but then removed the fences) but remained remote from the day to day management of the flocks.

The South Australian team working in an area with many small farmers and were equally remote from the details of grazing management.

The two teams did an excellent job with the demonstration of shallow cultivation and improved sowing.

The Western Australian team flew in Australian farmers to do the work.

This deprived local Iraqis of valuable experience.

The South Australian team employed Iraqis under the supervision of an Australian farmer.

All this was achieved in a remarkably short time.

By 1983 the Iraqis were convinced that the success on the projects could be translated to Iraqi farms.

More success

    Besides all the normal achievements of medic in terms of increased pasture production and improved cereals there were some other achievement from Iraq that deserve attention.

The one tonne advantage

The Erbil team from South Australia carried out a remarkable serious of experiments with medic and nitrogen fertiliser.

They wanted to see how cereal crops responded to medic in the rotation and to nitrogen fertiliser.

As one would expect they applied nitrogen to cereals after fallow until the yield of cereal was the same as that after medic.

From this one could say that medic produced the equivalent of a certain about of nitrogen fertiliser.

This is a standard experiment and has been carried out many times in many places.

They then continued to apply more nitrogen to both the cereal after medic and the cereal after fallow. They found the nitrogen after fallow never caught up.

There was a 10 qx margin in favour of cereals after medic that remained at all application rates of nitrogen.

It was a most interesting result and implies that the effect of medic is not just the supply of nitrogen in a slow release form for the cereal crop but that the improvement in soil structure or some other effect also has an immediate effect on yields.

    The Mosul team from Western Australia did some interesting work at J'Ravi on the edge of the rangeland.

They arranged a grazing rights exchange in a similar manner to the Jordanians at Ma'in.

This meant that one group of flockowners gave up their rights to the project area in return for exclusive rights to another area.

The team then sowed the whole area to medic in two years.

They used similar quantum leap ideas to the Libyans at Wadi Karouba and Wadi al Bab.

The combination of the two provided the foundation for a successful rangeland and marginal zone program.

The end of the projects

    The projects ended in the mid 1980s.

There were two reasons.

The Iraqis were convinced of the success of medic and wanted it to go out onto Iraqi farms.

The Australians were slow to respond and wanted to do more applied research and search for better medic cultivars. 

The Iraqis were in turn under pressure as the cost of the Iraq - Iran war became a greater burden on the economy.

They could not afford to fund teams of Australians carrying out research.

They want production on the ground.