24 April, 2022
A nature-inspired wax-coated sand could help enhance food production in the desert as freshwater resources dwindle.
Many arid countries are facing serious water security problems. In desert regions such as Saudi Arabia, high temperatures and dry winds accelerate evaporation from the soil and increase transpiration from plants, which consequently need extra water to maintain their ideal temperature and absorb nutrients. Farmers rely upon unsustainable levels of irrigation to meet their crops’ increased evapotranspiration needs.
“With over 70 percent of the country’s freshwater resources used for agriculture, groundwater aquifers that supply 90 percent of irrigation water are being irreversibly depleted,” says Kennedy Odokonyero, a postdoc at KAUST in Himanshu Mishra's team. In some arid countries, plastic sheets are used to curtail evaporation, but the plastic eventually ends up in landfills.
Image: Using a highly hydrophobic layer of sand as a mulching material reduces soil evaporation and enhances crop yield significantly.
© Adair Gallo Jr.