TEHRAN, March 12 (Xinhua) -- Less than 40 percent of Iran's arable lands is under cultivation as the farming and agricultural capacity of the country suffers severe water scarcity, Financial Tribune daily reported Monday.
Only 18.5 million hectares of land, some 37 percent of arable lands, have gone under the cultivation of different crops, according to Manouchehr Gorji, the head of Iranian Soil Science Association.
"Close to 8.5 million hectares of the total land under cultivation are irrigated and the rest are rain-fed," Gorji said.
Out of Iran's total area of 164.8 million hectares, 50 million are arable.
"Due to the water shortage, nearly 31.5 million hectares of arable land are not cultivated," Gorji noted.
Iran's Agriculture Minister Mahmoud Hojjati announced that amid low precipitation and water shortage, the government will place restrictions on the cultivation of crops in areas where underground water resources have dipped to alarming levels.
"In other parts of the country, farmers can use low-depth wells to deal with the situation for the time being," he said.
Meanwhile, soil erosion in Iran amounts to 16 tons per hectare, which is way above the global average of 6 tons per hectare, Gorji pointed out.
Farmers need to be trained in how to treat the soil, what to plant, how to plant them, how to use fertilizers and pesticides and how to carry out the harvest process so that the soil is not damaged, he added.
According to the report, about 92 percent of the country's water resources are used up by unsustainable and wasteful farming practices.
The country's nearly two-decade struggle with drought, combined with high consumption and waste, has caused renewable water resources to drop under 120 billion cubic meters.
Iran's average precipitation rate has been lower than the global average for at least 10 years, making it one of the world's most water-stressed regions. Some 37 million Iranians are said to be living in water-stressed areas.