Biomation have developed a new approach to soil improvement that keeps crops well hydrated and nourished.
Paul Smith, head of business development from Biomation says: “Our product combines nutrient rich organic matter with a water absorbing polymer that also has soil binding properties. It is so good, plants can grow in builders sand.”
The soil improver named protein-based super absorber (PBSA) absorbs up to 20 times its weight in water. Unlike other hydrogels, which have a rigid wall structure and do not always release liquids easily, PBSA releases the water and the nutrients when needed. This improves the quality and hydration of the soil, leading to increased plant growth.
The soil improver is an excellent food source for the microbes that play an essential role in maintaining soil fertility. Once applied to the crops using standard farming machinery it can provide benefits for up to 12 months. No harmful residue is left, as the product is broken down to organic matter, carbon dioxide and water.
Glasshouse trials with NIAB using tomato plants have looked promising. Tomatoes were grown in sand, half sand half fertiliser or sand with 1% PBSA and then not watered for 9 days. The tomatoes without PBSA shrivelled and died but the ones with PBSA remained healthy, edible and continued to grow. Biomation are now looking at field tests to repeat the success of glasshouse testing.
Preliminary trials in Spain looking at crop growth demonstrated a 15% increase in growth, better nutrient value of the crop and an increase in microbial soil stimulation. Further field trials in the UK and Europe will be conducted in the spring.
One of the exciting applications of this product is its potential to reclaim some of the 3.6 billion hectares of unfertile lands worldwide. As a global food crisis appears more likely, increasing land for crop growth would alleviate some of the burden, both in the UK and countries with serious irrigation issues. Biomation is currently in talks about using the soil improver to try and reverse the effects of desertification induced by over farming.
Biomation is a member of Agri-Tech-East and Paul is looking forward to talking to growers about this exciting new technology and forming collaborations to help further test its product.