Scientific research

Cultivation of indigo to restore saline degraded lands

Author: Knowledge Management in CACILM Phase II, ICARDA.

Definition of technology:

Indigofera (Indigofera tinctoria) contributes to the restoration of degraded saline land and synthesizes a natural dye, which is in high demand in the global market.

Brief summary of technology:

Place of technology application:

One of the ways to restore degraded (marginal) land, which is not used due to the high salinization, is the cultivation of alternative crops. Research studies within the Bonn (Germany)/UrSU (Uzbekistan) ZEF/UNESCO project demonstrated that leguminous crop Indigofera tinctoria can quite successfully be cultivated in saline conditions of degraded lands. This crop has many useful properties such as:

(A) due to the crop fixes free nitrogen from the air and enrich soil because of the presence of the root nodule bacteria, located on the roots; (B) it grows well on saline degraded land; (C) is a green manure and a good predecessor for other crops, (g) synthesizes natural indigo dye in the above-ground part; (D) some species are edible by animals.

Within the frame of the ZEF/UNESCO project, a new variety of indigo entitled "Feruz-1" (Author: A.Ergashev et al.) was created, which passed ecological tests in the fields of Khorezm, Syrdarya, Tashkent regions and in Karakalpakstan, with convincing results.

Under the conditions of Karakalpakstan, the yield of green biomass was 35 t/ha, from which about 110 kg of pasta with natural dyes – indigo can be extracted. In the European market, the price of 1 kg of indigo powder is estimated at 200-240 Euro. That means, a farmer can receive an income of about 20,000 euro or 30,000 US dollars from each ha of low-productive land. Therefore, due to attractiveness of indigo cultivation, farmers can substitute cultivation of crops with less useful for soil conservation characteristics to indigo. After extraction of dye material from biomass, crop residues may be used as a nitrogen-rich "green manure" or as animal feed.

Already now, any farmer wishing to grow indigo to recover its land and receive income can buy indigo seeds and get advice on proper growing of indigo. Contact phone number for the purchase of seeds: +998 90 650 22 46; +998 94 650 22 46 (Mr. Abdukadir Ergashev).

Location: Karakalpakstan.

Area of technology application: 30-55 ha.

Stage of intervention: mitigation / reduction of land degradation.

Main land use issues and the main causes of land degradation:

Natural prerequisites and mismanagement of land and water have led to the development of  secondary soil salinization and land abandonment from agricultural use. Restoration of saline marginal land by conventional methods of leaching is difficult and costly.

Main technical features of technology:

Improvement of ground cover, increase of organic matter, nutrients, soil fertility restoration.

Type of land use Conservation measures

Irrigated arable land.

Production of annual crops - Во(Са).

Vegetative measures:

В2: Grass and perennial grass plants.


Habitat Anthropogenic environment

Average annual rainfall: 200-400 mm.

Altitude (meter above sea level): 100-350 m.

Landscape: valley.

Slope (%): 0-2% (flat); 2-5% (steep).

Soil fertility: low.

Humus content in arable horizon: <1%.

Natural soil drainage/infiltration: low.

Size of land area (ha): 30-55 ha.

Landholder: farmer and dehkhan households.

Land ownership: lease (farmers); private property (dehkhan households).

Water use rights: through WUAs and organizations responsible for management of irrigation systems.

Market orientation: mixed farming (subsistence), free market.


Impact of technology

Main advantages:

- saving mineral fertilizers by 30-40%;

- increasing yield of crops and farmers’ incomes by 15-20%;

- additional farm income by selling repeated crop yields.

Main disadvantages:

- difficulties in subsequent crop production related to additional costs of labor and water application.

Acceptance/adoption of technology:

Reference(s): Materials from the site Ergashev Abdukodir, Ph.D., professor, consultant of the UNESCO Office in Uzbekistan, the author and supervisor of the project - "The introduction of indigo to grow biomass on degraded lands and breeding of seed variety "Feruz-1".

Name of person(s) collected this description: Tatyana Hamzina, Chief specialist on soil reclamation studies and irrigation regime. UZGIP LTD.

Address: 44, Navoi str., Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

Tel.: +998 90 9945654, Email: 




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