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State of land, water and plant nutrition resources in Turkey

Country overview

Turkey has influential geo-political status because its location serves as a natural bridge between Europe and Asia. Turkey has a total area of 779 452 square kilometers, of which 14 300 square kilometers is water surfaces. It is surrounded by the Black sea in the north, the Mediterranean Sea in the south and the Aegean sea in the west. It shares land boundaries with Greece and Bulgaria in the northwest, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan in he northeast, Iran in the east and Iraq and Syria in the southeast. Turkey is generally divided into the Aegean, the Mediterranean, Central Anatolia, the East and Southeast Anatolia regions. Turkey has 81 provinces and 76 457 villages. Capital of Turkey is Ankara city.

The average rainfall is about 650 mm, which varies considerably from region to region, from about 250mm in the central and southeastern plateaus, to 2 500 mm in the northeastern coastal plains and mountain regions. Turkey, situated in the temperate zone, has various climatic types in different parts of the country. The average annual temperature ranges from 4 to 20ºC. Because of the highly variable terrain and exposure to hot and cold winds, local microclimates can vary widely from the regional averages.

Turkey is a predominantly mountainous country, and true lowland is confined to the coastal fringes. Four main regions can be identified; the northern folded zone, the southern folded zone, the central massif, and the Arabian platform.

Sebahattin Keskin
Soil and Water National Information Center of GDRS

Agriculture production is of special importance to Turkey due to its increasing population and the great contribution agriculture makes to the national economy (Table 1). At present, 46 percent of the population depend on the agriculture for their livelihood. The share of the urban population in the total is rising by around 4.5 percent every year. In 1999, agriculture accounted for 14 percent of GDP and 13.8 percent of exports. Agricultural output increased by an annual average of 1.1 percent between 1990 and 1998. The country produces virtually all the commonly needed food crops, with some surpluses for export. Agricultural output in Turkey consists predominantly of crop production which in 1999 accounted for 72.4 percent of total agricultural output, as against 21.6 percent for livestock products. Fisheries and forestry account for 3.9 percent and 2.46 percent respectively. A major portion of the economically active population is employed in the agricultural sector. Cereals, especially wheat and barley, are Turkey's most important crop. Turkey's most important agricultural exports are tobacco, cotton, dried fruit (hazelnuts, seedless raisins, figs, apricots), pulses (chickpeas and lentils), live sheep, goats, fresh fruits (apples and citrus fruits) and fresh tomatoes. Exports of processed agricultural products include tomato puree, some mutton and sugar, processed nuts and canned fruit. Agriculture also plays a key role in supplying raw materials to industry, especially sugar, tobacco, tea and cotton. Although Turkey remains a net exporter of food products, imports, particularly of dairy products and beef, are tending to grow faster than exports.

Land resources

In Turkey the real understanding of soil survey and mapping began in 1952 with the help of FAO. A Turkish team, led by the American soil consultant Harvey Oakes, produced the first general soil map of Turkey at a scale of 1:800 000 by 1954, on the basis of reconnaissance survey and geological and topographic maps. The General Directorate of Soil and Water prepared the Turkey Development Soil Map (TDSM), based on a 1:25 000 topographic map at the reconnaissance level. In this study, map units were recorded relating to the 1938 American Soil Classification System including depth, slope, stoniness, and erosion phases. After evaluating the data, two maps were produced: a Soil Resource Inventory Map for every province at a scale of 1:100 000; and a Watershed Soil Map and Report showing 17 of Turkey's 26 major catchments at a scale of 1:200 000. Today this study is the main resource base for addressing the problems and uses of Turkey's soils (Table2).

The Turkey Soils Potential Survey and Non Agriculture Aims Land Usage Planning Project was replaced with the Turkey Development Soil Map Surveys by the General Directorate of Soil and Water between 1982-1984. From 1987 onwards, maps were prepared from the results of the Turkey Development Soil Maps Surveys at a scale of 1:100 000. With the consultation of the GDRS and the surveys, a map called the Turkey Soil Zones Map was also prepared at the scale of 1:2 000 000. This was published as the Turkey General Soil Management Plan.

Water resources

Rainfall accounts for an average of 501 billion m³ of water annually. It is estimated that 274 billion m³ of this returns to the atmosphere through evaporation and transpiration from soil and water surfaces and plants; 41 billion m³ feeds underground reservoirs through leakage and deep percolation; and 186 billion m³ runs off into seas or lakes. Around 6.9 billion m³ of water is added to the country's water potential through rivers of neighboring countries. Thus the renewable fresh (surface) water potential of Turkey is about 234 billion m³, depending on climatic fluctuations. The total safe yield of groundwater resources is estimated at 12 billion m³. Finally, it is estimated that the total (technically and economically) usable surface and ground water potential of Turkey is 110 billion m³, with 95 billion m³ of this coming from internal rivers, 3 billion m³ from external rivers and 12 billion m³ from ground water resources. Turkey possesses 177 714 km of river, 203 599 hectares of lakes natural of lakes and 179 920 hectares of lakes created by dams and artificial lakes, an area which is increasing all the time. The total annual water withdrawal is 42.0 billion m³ for whole country by 2000. The total development of water resources by public institutions in several sectors reached 32 billion m³ in 1994. This is 14 percent of the gross water potential, or 29 percent of the technically and economically usable potential. Agriculture consumes almost 75 percent of the developed water resources.

In Turkey, 25.85 million ha of the 28.15 million ha of cultivated can be irrigated. Since the land that can be irrigated and the water resources are in different locations, under considerations of project economy the area of land that can be irrigated is accepted as 8.5 million ha. By the end of 1995, 4.5 million ha of land were connected to the irrigation network, meaning that 47.8 percent of the 8.5 million ha of land that can be irrigated was being irrigated. To organize the water regime in Turkey, the building of 473 dams of various sizes is under consideration and the most important investment in this respect is the Atatürk High Dam within the Southern Anatolia Project (GAP) now under construction. When this project, along with all the dams within it, is completed, 1.8 million ha of land will be opened up to irrigated farming and agricultural production will rise substantially. Generally, countries with Per capita annual water availability between 1 000 and 3 000 m³ per cap have major problems during drought years. Conflicts in sectoral allocation of water are likely to arise. The burden of adjustment will ultimately fall on the agricultural sector as the major consumptive user. Increase in water use efficiency of already existing irrigation systems will not only save water, but also improve yields. The environmental problems related to water resources have reached quite dangerous levels in Turkey.

Soil and plant nutrient resources

According to the soil survey and research trials, zinc and iron deficiency seem to be a major problems in Turkish soils. Many factors restrict the use of new agricultural techniques related to soil management: extensive sloping areas and cultivation on steep slopes, shallow soils, low biologic activity, high sensitivity to erosion, stoniness, salinity and drought risks. Soil erosion is a crucial problem affecting soil fertility and sustainability. 68 percent of the arable land is seriously eroded. Only 14 percent of the total land area has a soil depth of 90 cm or more. As for land slope, only 38 percent of total land area is ideally suitable for farming. Eleven percent of the arable land is covered by stones, which seriously restrict soil productivity. Improper agricultural practices lead to salinity in some areas. An estimated 1.5 million ha of arable land suffers from yield limitations because of salt and boron problems and a further 2.8 million hectare from waterlogging. The main land management problem faced in Turkey is that land is not used in accordance with its capabilities.

Most soils have high potassium content, but more than half are low in phosphorus. Balanced and sufficient fertilizer applications are very important for the stability of productivity and it is improvement. While total fertilizer production was 3.3 million tonnes, fertilizer consumption was about 5.5 million tonnes in 1999.

Hot spots

Agriculture and rural development are integral parts of overall national resources management covering all related sectors. A draft Law concerning the use of water resources and justification was prepared in 1968 but not enacted yet. Drafting a Law concerning the usage of land resources has not been prepared yet. During the last decades, as in many other countries, Turkey has been involved deeply in realizing many civil works but less so in the human and social components of development, which are of great importance for rapid improvement. This approach, which is changing only slowly, has become a real constraint against rapid development in every sector, including agricultural and rural development.

There is considerable overlap of duties in the same area by several organizations causing many problems of coordination and wasting time and money. Although DSI constructs major irrigation infrastructure and GDRS small-scale irrigation schemes and on-farm development works, DSI is legally in charge of the nation's groundwater development. For small-scale groundwater irrigation projects, DSI sinks the wells, installs the pumps and connects the electricity and GDRS completes the canal infrastructure. Both agencies report the same groundwater schemes as their achievements.

Extension on irrigated agriculture is not effective. The information from GDRS on irrigation and other relevant research findings are not effectively transferred to the extension service under the ministry of agriculture and the farmers. There is no relation with farmers training and finance issues. Land and water management advice is not clearly included in the extension programmes for better land and water management and group formation. Piped and pressurized irrigation systems (more sophisticated and water-saving) account for less than 5 percent of the overall irrigated area. The prevailing irrigation methods in Turkey are conventional. In Turkey, 90 percent of irrigation canals are concrete lined, increasing the conveyance efficiency in the system. But overall water use efficiency is about 40 percent, ranging from 10 to 70 percent. Irrigation water management is deficient in both main and on-farm systems. Training is one of the major problems. Neither staff nor farmers are involved in sound training programmes.

Bright spots

A draft Law concerning the use of water resources has been updated and will be enacted in the near future. Preparation of a draft Law concerning the use of land resources has already been started. The involvement of beneficiaries in agricultural and rural development has been encouraged by government. This is a phenomenal development in privatization efforts, the pace of which has surpassed all expectations. Small-scale irrigation projects can only be carried out after setting up users' cooperatives (generally village people). After constructing the irrigation systems, GDRS hands over the main O&M responsibility to the users.

To solve the problems related to environmental conservation, Parliament approved a new law in 1993, according to this law every activity which may be environment related must be accepted by the Environment Commission under the Ministry of Environment. The Commission is responsible to investigate all agricultural and rural development projects of public of private organizations and has the authority to reject projects that may harm the environment. Facilities defined in the regulation that are subject to the special permission include energy plants, non-metal production and processing facilities, metals production and processing, chemical plants, organic matter and plastics production and processing facilities, timber and paper production, beverage, food and agricultural product facilities, waste disposal plants and storage, packing and dumping facilities for dusty material. A National Environmental Action Plan was prepared and opened for discussion. All services in terms of rural infrastructures are planned to be transferred to local authorities. Thus, it is expected that financial, human and other resources will be efficiently managed. And especially the beneficiaries will be involved in all stages of the system. Some governmental organizations involved in agricultural and rural development have run pilot training programmes for farmers. In these programmes, the beneficiaries have been informed about the importance of environmental conservation and agricultural methods respecting the environment. Some civic organizations and NGOs also have held campaigns to inform the public about environmental issues and sustainable development. In order to increase public support for maintaining the environment, communication tools including, TV, radio, extension services, training and study tours have been used successfully.

Challenges and viewpoints

On the basis of statements in development plans and programmes, the main objectives of Turkish agricultural policy are:

The full Turkey country report is available at the Gateway Web site:

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