Superhydrophobic sand mulches increase agricultural productivity in arid regions
AuthorsGallo Junior, Adair
Mousa, Magdi A. A.
Reihmer, Joel W.
Morton, Mitchell J. L.
Tester, Mark A.
KAUST DepartmentBiological and Environmental Sciences and Engineering (BESE) Division
Desert Agriculture Initiative
Earth System Observation and Modelling
Environmental Science and Engineering Program
Extreme Systems Microbiology Lab
Red Sea Research Center (RSRC)
The Salt Lab
Water Desalination and Reuse Research Center (WDRC)
Permanent link to this recordhttp://hdl.handle.net/10754/667192
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AbstractExcessive evaporative loss of water from the topsoil in arid-land agriculture is compensated via irrigation, which exploits massive freshwater resources. The cumulative effects of decades of unsustainable freshwater consumption in many arid regions are now threatening food-water security. While plastic mulches can reduce evaporation from the topsoil, their cost and non-biodegradability limit their utility. In response, we report on superhydrophobic sand (SHS), a bio-inspired enhancement of common sand with a nanoscale wax coating. When SHS was applied as a 5 mm-thick mulch over the soil, evaporation dramatically reduced and crop yields increased. Multi-year field trials of SHS application with tomato (Solanum lycopersicum), barley (Hordeum vulgare), and wheat (Triticum aestivum) under normal irrigation enhanced yields by 17%-73%. Under brackish water irrigation (5500 ppm NaCl), SHS mulching produced 53%-208% higher fruit yield and grain gains for tomato and barley. Thus, SHS could benefit agriculture and city-greening in arid regions.
SponsorsWe thank the following colleagues from KAUST: Ms. Jamilya Nauruzbayeva for her assistance in applying SHS in the fields; Mr. Vinicius Luis dos Santos forhis assistance in conducting soil analysis; Dr. Mahmoud Ibrahim and Dr. Andreia Farinha for troubleshooting during soil analysis; Mr. Sankara Arunachalam and Dr. Eddy Domingues for environmental scanning electron microscopy and energy-dispersive spectroscopy; Dr. Erqiang Li and Professor Sigurdur Thoroddsen for high-speed imaging; Dr. Yoann Malbeteau and Mr. Bruno Aragon for their assistance in soil moisture data analysis; Dr. Nishan Abdul Jaleel, Dr. Gabriele Fiene, and Dr. Muppala Reddy for their assistance in greenhouse experiments. We would also like to thank Dr. Adel D. Al-Qurashi, Prof. Dr. Abdullah S. Al-Wagdany, and Dr. Khalid Asseri from KAU, Jeddah. The co-authors thank Mr. Xavier Pita, Scientific Illustrator at KAUST, for creating Fig. 1A-B and Dr. Michael Cusack (KAUST) and Prof. Kevin Plaxco (University of California, Santa Barbara) for their assistance in scientific editing.
Funding: We acknowledge research support from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) through award # BAS/1/1070-0101 to HM.