Making the rain, and making it better

‘Minute molecules go right to where they’re needed, giving impressive results.’

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Since Hydroponic farmers Use water to convey food to their plants, they’re always seeking effective ways to transport the maximum level of nutrients. As rainwater falls it collects carbon and nitrogen, chemicals which noticeably boost plant growth, from the atmosphere. Rainwater is therefore considered an excellent starting point for feeding plants. Dr Jens Jacobsen, an earth scientist, and his biologist wife Dr Rita Jacobsen, founders of MMI Tech agricultural research company in KwaZulu-Natal, are developing a method of artificially creating rainwater containing not only carbon and nitrogen, but additional nutrients too.

Their product is applied as a foliar droplet feed, in addition to the usual root fertigation, and could be used in hydroponics, greenhouses, or the open field. “It’s a worthy exercise to develop a foliar feed that improves the results of conventional fertigation programmes,” explains Jens. “It would also be cost-effective, giving growers significantly greater returns on their initial capital outlay. mimics nature’s safe method of giving plants additional food, while working against global warming by recycling carbon.”

This particular aerial feed isn’t considered a substitute for root feeding. Rather, it’s a booster with a remarkable effect on crop yield. Plants use the nutrients it supplies six to 10 times more effectively than they do root-fed nutrients. It’s also applied up to 20 times less often, making it cheaper. The plants receive a uniform spread of the product and respond within a day, instead of weeks as is the case with root-feeding.

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Molecular-level care
The Jacobsens’ product is classed as a nanomolecular feed (NMF) because the particles are so small. They enter the plant easily and rapidly directly through the waxy cuticle. “This distinguishes our product from conventional foliar feeds,” says Jens. “Minute molecules go right to where they’re needed, giving impressive results with low-running costs.” The nanoparticles’ entry into a plant isn’t affected by the thickness of the cuticle or the waxiness of the leaves, and occurs even if the stomata (breathing pores) are closed.

The only factors that affects the NMF negatively are low light and cold. “Carbon makes up 50% of a plant’s dry mass, yet no liquid carbon fertilisers are currently available,” Jens continues. “is a viable alternative to carbon dioxide gas in greenhouses.” Jens says that increases photosynthesis, as well as the formation of starch, other carbohydrates, proteins and lipids, which in turn translate into greater plant mass and yield. In addition to increasing growth and yield, the has fungicidal and anti-viral properties, discourages insects, improves fruit quality and shelf-life, and cools plants down during hot periods. “The application regime is simply an overhead spray of rain-like droplets several times a day. We’ve had outstanding results,” says Jens. “One tomato trial using doubled the tomato yield in the NMF-treated plants, compared to the untreated plants. The treated tomato fruits also lasted for two months at room temperature.” Contact the Jacobsen doctors on (036) 468 1250, or e-mail [email protected].