Superhydrophobic Sand Mulches Increase Agricultural Productivity in Arid Regions (Under Review)

by Adair Gallo Jr, Kennedy Odokonyero, Magdi A. A. Mousa, Joel Reihmer, Samir Al-Mashharawi, Ramona Marasco, Mitchell J. L. Morton, Daniele Daffonchio, Matthew F. McCabe, Mark Tester, Himanshu Mishra
Year: 2020


Superhydrophobic Sand Mulches Increase Agricultural Productivity in Arid Regions.
Gallo Jr., A., Odokonyero, K., Mousa, M. A. A., Reihmer, J., Al-Mashharawi, S., Marasco, R., Morton, M. J. L., Daffonchio, D., McCabe, M. F.,  Tester, M., Mishra, H*. (Under review, Nature Communications)


Excessive 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.


Sand Superhrophobic Agriculture