Wednesday, January 23, 2013

New Technology to Help Quench Thirsty Crops

Under last year's drought, many of the nation's crops withered. Since then Michigan State University's researchers have been testing a new technology in water-saving membranes to help yield a larger crop this year. So far they have dramatically increased their corn and vegetable production on their test farms by almost 175%.

Developed by Alvin Smucker, MSU professor of biophysics, this subsurface water retention technology uses contoured, engineered films, placed at different depths below the root zone of the plant to retain soil water. Internal drainage is permitted during excess rainfall by proper spacing, which also helps with root growth.

Smucker and Kurt Thelen, along with horticulturalists Mathieu Ngouajio and Ron Goldy will lead teams of scientists, engineers and industrial agricultural experts in implementing the new technology on farms in irrigated sandy regions of southwestern Michigan and the arid regions of the southwestern and the mid western U.S.

The prototype can be used on a broad range of agricultural crops, as well as feedstock and plants grown specifically for fuel production, on marginal lands. SWRT-improved irrigated sands produced 145 percent more cucumbers than did the control fields without the water-saving membranes. As mentioned above,  researchers also dramatically improved irrigated corn production, increasing yields 175 percent.

With last year's drought conditions covering as much as 2/3 of the U.S. Crop yields were cut dramatically and it is believed that chronic drought may become the new normal for the U.S. due to the increasingly changing climate. Fortunately, these researchers are making headway with this new technology, so there's still hope yet to aid in this issue.

James
Garden Media Group

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