Over 70% or 2 quadrillion gallons of the world’s fresh water is used for agricultural purposes annually. Imagine covering the United States with two feet of water; that’s how much water is used annually by agriculture. Amid water scarcity and climate change, the need to use water more efficiently and conserve where we can is even more important to our future.
One way we can do this is with smart irrigation. Smart irrigation involves using improved irrigation practices and technologies to reduce water waste, while sustaining plant health and crop quality. Every year during July, the irrigation industry focuses on awareness and education for Smart Irrigation Month.
There are many smart irrigation solutions on the market, including weather-based irrigation controllers, sensors, AI, high-efficiency irrigation and nanobubble technology. These innovations are helping farmers ensure water is used more efficiently and effectively.
Of these solutions, nanobubble technology is a sustainable and environmentally friendly tool to improve irrigation water efficiency while producing a myriad of other benefits including:
- Better soil health and reduced compaction
- Improved nutrient uptake efficiency
- Better water infiltration into soil and soil substrates
- Improve water quality without chemicals
- Pathogen reduction
- Biofilm control
- Reduced reliance on chemicals
Nanobubbles measure between 70-120 nanometers in diameter, roughly 2500 times smaller than a grain of salt. Due to their neutral buoyancy, they move randomly and continuously through water in all parts of an irrigation system via Brownian motion. Nanobubble-enriched water is super-oxygenated, has significantly reduced surface tension compared to untreated water, and possesses other unique chemical and physical attributes.
Nanobubbles Improve Soil and Water Interactions for Healthier Roots
Nanobubbles improve soil flocculation, which improves the soil structure by pulling together individual clay particles into larger aggregates. Due to these properties, when nanobubble-treated water is applied to compacted soils, compaction is reduced. At the Kapicua Research center, a blueberry grower in Chile performed trials with nanobubble-treated irrigation water from July 2020 to April 2021. A Moleaer generator was installed on the main water storage tank.
Overall, Kapicua saw a 20% reduction in soil compaction compared to the untreated area. Water infiltration was correspondingly higher, as were rates of root development and new shoot growth. Improved fruit size/quality and ripening rate were also observed.
Water Surface Tension Reduction
Nanobubbles increase water infiltration in soil because they lower the surface tension of water. That is, water with reduced surface tension enters and moves through soil at a much faster rate compared to water with high surface tension. As depicted below, on a soil surface, water with reduced surface tension has a lower ‘contact angle,’ a characteristic that results in better water penetration and distribution in drought-affected and hydrophobic soils.
Soil Aeration & Increased Microbial Activity
Using nanobubble-treated water also improves soil aeration. The scientists who conducted a study concluded that soil aeration improved with the application of nanobubble-treated irrigation water, especially in clay soils that had been degraded by prolonged application of treated wastewater.
Because it improves soil aeration, nanobubble-treated irrigation water also increases soil microbial activity and nutrient availability. Higher soil oxygen levels boost the activity of beneficial soil microbes, as well as rates of soil mineralization and nutrient conversion.
Additional Benefits of Nanobubbles
In addition to improving water and soil interactions that increase the availability of water for plants in growing mediums, chemical-free nanobubbles also improve water quality, reduce water-borne pathogens, control algae and biofilm, and allow farmers to use fewer chemicals for cleaning and disease control.
Nanobubbles significantly increase the levels of dissolved oxygen (DO) in irrigation water (to about 20 ppm or the ideal ppm for your crop) and its oxidation-reduction potential (ORP, a measure of water’s oxidizing capacity to break down contaminants), they promote the growth of beneficial microbes such as mycorrhizae and suppress the growth of oxygen-averse pathogens such as Pythium and Pythophthora.
The super-oxygenation of nanobubble-treated water assures optimal root function. That is, if root cells receive super-high levels of oxygen in the water they absorb, they are able to produce huge amounts of cellular energy (ATP) through their respiration process. This powers high rates of water and nutrient absorption, causing high corresponding overall plant growth rate and yields.
By pairing nanobubble technology with other smart irrigation solutions like weather-based irrigation controllers, and precision irrigation, growers can make more informed decisions on irrigation water use while also improving water quality for a more sustainable tomorrow.
To learn more about nanobubble technology from the leader in nanobubble technology, Moleaer, visit their website at www.moleaer.com.