Agriculturalists all around the world are constantly struggling to find ways to expand crop production and improve food output and they have recently been working closely with their colleagues in the field of geology to find ways of improving crop yields.
In recent years, a great deal of research effort has been directed towards the role that zeolites can play in improving soil and studies have shown that the unique ion exchange, dehydration-rehydration, and adsorption properties of zeolite materials can aid plant growth significantly in all types of soil and particularly in poor soils.
Initial research took place as far back as the 1960’s in Japan where for years, Japanese farmers have used zeolites to control the moisture content and acidity of the soil and zeolites have also been found to control the levels of ammonia in rice paddy fields when mixed with normal fertilizer.
Even though the studies suggested that zeolites could be responsible for the trapping and slow release of nutrients into the soil, these early results were only published in some rather obscure publications. Since then however there has been a growing awareness of the properties of zeolites and studies into the additive have been carried out in many agricultural laboratories around the world and scientists now recognize the huge potential of these materials in agricultural productivity.
A study in Japan showed that when zeolites were applied along with the normal fertiliser to rice fields, where nitrogen efficiencies of less than fifty percent had been previously recorded, the amount of nitrogen available to plants increased by 63% in just four weeks and in experiments carried out by the Great Western Sugar Co. In Longmont, Colorado, significant increases in the total matter production of sugar beet were reported following the application of zeolites.
The use of zeolites in agriculture is also proving to be of great interest in developing countries. The materials unique properties reduce the amount of expensive fertiliser that needs to be applied to the soil and greatly improves moisture retention.
Scientifically proven to enhance plant growth, zeolites are now also available for the garden. Even in good soil, their absorption and slow release properties retain moisture in the soil and so reduce the need for frequent watering. Their ability to absorb and slowly release nutrients also reduces the amount of costly fertilizers that need to be applied.
Dr. Peter Leggo, an eminent expert in the field at Cambridge University and author of studies on the properties of zeolites recently summed up the benefits of applying zeolites to the soil by answering the question why should you use zeolites in his simple response; ‘To reduce the use of fertilizer or amendments and to reduce the amount of water necessary for growing’.
Dr. Leggo found that when mixed with organic matter such as compost, Zeolites produce a very effective bio-fertilizer by increasing the population of nitrifers in the mix and, as zeolites are a naturaly occurring substance, this makes them an ideal soil improver for organic gardens too.