Breath of air in irrigation water restores soil and improves yields

Activated oxygen water treatment trials in North West have shown
positive results in wheat and maize yields. Annelie Coleman reports.

Root systems of wheat irrigated with untreated water showing less prolific root development in the upper soil layer.
Photo: Courtesy of Puricare

The use of activated oxygen technology, developed by environmental engineering company Puricare International’s agricultural division, has shown improved soil structure and increased nutrient uptake. Trials were carried out on Abel Rootman’s grain farm, Greefslaagte (in the Lichtenburg area) and the technology was tested on no-till maize and wheat crops under irrigation in the 2011/2012 season.

The trial area of 100ha consisted of 80ha under centre pivot irrigated with activated oxygen-enriched water and 20ha, also under pivot, irrigated with untreated water. “Various plant and root samples were taken to monitor differences in growth and development between experimental and control sections,” says Puricare’s Gisela Meintjes. “Care was taken to eliminate obvious soil differences and other variations between the two areas. Samples were taken at crop physiological maturity to determine yield components and calculate water use efficiency. Profile pits were dug to observe the differences in root distribution between the two systems,” says Meintjies.

Encouraging results
Rootman said the treated wheat land showed noticeably quicker tillering and initial development than other wheat lands in the area. “There were fewer blockages in the irrigation system and application volumes and distribution improved. The treated maize crop showed excellent growth and pollination.” Meintjes explained that grain yield and total volume of water applied to both systems was taken into account to calculate water use efficiency.

The area irrigated with oxygen-enriched water showed higher yields and used less water. There was no lodging of maize irrigated with treated water because of the development of thicker, stronger stems and anchor roots. With global food production under pressure, demands for more food of improved quality and the threats posed by climate change, Meintjies said that farmers would be forced to optimise production methods. “This is where releasing activated oxygen into irrigation water comes into its own. The environmentally- friendly technology can play an important part in restoring soil health and ensuring better yields.”

In the Puricare system, irrigation water is enriched with activated oxygen, catalysed with hydrogen peroxide and fed back into the irrigation system. Increased oxygen concentrations in the water and soil environments improve plant growth and enhance root development. Oxygenated water stimulates active aerobic soil life, which drives chemical processes in the soil and improves the organic component. Meintjies says that introducing activated oxygen into water also restores soil pH levels, a process beneficial to soil organism activity.

Contact Gisela Meintjes on 044 874 0937.