Sustainable Watering Of Crops

Agricultural scientists are exploring different ways to use water in a more sustainable way for irrigation. Presently, the main disadvantage of using irrigation is that it requires a lot of water, much of which is lost to evaporation. In some farm areas, more than 50 percent of water may be lost to evaporation. The high evaporation rate may also decrease soil fertility through salinization.

Nanotechnology researchers would like to come up with a way to apply water slowly into the ground with a minimum of runoff and evaporation. One idea is to use the mineral zeolites to do the job.

Zeolites are microporous crystalline minerals that contain silicon, aluminium, and oxygen. Zeolites are used in petroleum refineries and for water softening and purification products.

The researchers are interested in using zeolites in water irrigation systems because the mineral can absorb about half its own volume of water. The zeolites would act as water moderators whereby they will absorb up to 50 percent of their weight in water and slowly release it to plants.

Using zeolites in a water irrigation system has several advantages over other conventional irrigation methods. First, the zeolites could reduce the total amount of water needed to irrigate crops, making this kind of

Did you know?

More than 500,000 tons of zeolites were used in the clean up after the nuclear power plant disaster at Chernobyl.

irrigation method useful in regions with limited water supplies. Second, little water is lost to the air through evaporation or to the soil via percolation because water is released slowly and over a small area. At the same time, fewer salts are deposited in the soil, helping to preserve soil quality.

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