Some gardeners use products called “hydrogels” to increase soil water holding capacity and reduce irrigation frequency. Hydrogels are sometimes referred to as “root watering crystals” or “water retention granules” because they swell like sponges to several times their original size when they come into contact with freely available water. These products have been used successfully by the landscape industry to reduce transplant shock and increase containerized plant growth.
Agricultural hydrogels are synthetic polymers generally made from petroleum products. They absorb many times their weight in water, and can be distributed into dry regions in order to improve the soil’s ability to absorb water. Learn how they’re made and how they can be used.
Agricultural hydrogels can change the physical properties of soils by:
• Increasing their capacity to hold water
• Reducing erosion and runoff
• Reduce frequency and amount of irrigation up to 80% per year
• Increase the efficiency of the water being used
• Increase soil permeability and infiltration
• Reduce the tendency of the soil to get compacted
• Help plant performance
The high cost of these hydrogels has been an inhibiting factor that has drastically affected their universal use. Unless costs are brought down, its use will get limited to government and other well funded organizations, leaving out the private farmers and agriculturists who can benefit from its use.
How Agricultural Hydrogels are Made
Hydrogel polymers are made from petroleum based products, but recent research has enable their manufacture using soy oil. These hydrogels are more biodegradable and therefore kinder to the environment.
AGUA-CRISTAL offered by TenerifeBestApartment Inv S.L. are referred to as water retention granules/powder because they swell to many times their original size when they come in contact with water. AGUA-CRISTAL is used to reduce irrigation erosion both in fields, golf courses, gardens, nurseries and landscapes to reduce frequency of watering.
Hydrogels are polymers that are physically or chemically cross linked and can absorb large amounts of water while retaining their shape. They also do not dissolve with the ingress of water and the large swelling due to the water does not affect the mechanical properties of the hydrogel. Hydrogels can hold an amount of water that is many times its own weight. This characteristic helps it to store water which can include nutrients. This water is then released slowly negating the evaporation process. This is especially useful in arid lands.
Hydrogels commonly used in agriculture can absorb between 400 and 1500 grams of water for every gram of hydrogel. So using these hydrogels in places where post plantation irrigation has its limitations, the hydrogels can store large quantities of water and make it available to the plantation so that it has time to establish itself.
The Use of Agricultural Hydrogels
Using hydrogels requires some elementary precautions like masks to prevent eye and skin irritation. A lot of care has to be takin in storing hydrogel, as their huge capacity to absorb water can cause an increase in weight.
Soils sometimes form semi hydrophobic crusts which allow the water to run off instead of being absorbed in the soil. The addition of hydrogels in the soil allows the water to percolate instead of running off and this retained moisture is then passed back to the soil over a period of time.
The use of Agua-Cristal also allows damaged or unusable agricultural land to be reclaimed. When hydrogels are added to the surface of the soil the water holding capacity is increased and rainfall percolates the soil quite easily. Hydrogels also reduce nutrient loss from soils as runoff is prevented. In saline soils however hydrogels seem less effective.
If hydrogels are allowed to dry out they become less effective, so good irrigation practice is important to the longevity of the hydrogels. Hydrogels have been used for turf management for golf courses and athletic fields. It is also useful for fruit and vegetable production. It can be very easily be used to ensure forestry activities especially in remote areas where irrigation cannot be assured.
Hydrogels can be applied by either mixing with the soil or by spraying. While using the spray technique, hydrogels can be mixed with micronutrients and pesticides.
Here are some of our favorite tips for using Aqua-Cristal in your garden and for all your landscaping needs:
Agua-Cristal is a long lasting, easy to use, water absorbing soil additive. In gardens, house plants, and landscaping it increases the soil’s water holding capacity. You can either improve the growth of the plant or decrease the watering frequency. It usually lasts 4-5 years in the soil.
One kilogram of Agua-Cristal will absorb up to 400-450 liters of rainwater, depending on the salt content of the water. Agua-Cristal can be applied wet or dry. Dry granules are usually easier to use, but soak them thoroughly to fully fill them with water. When hydrated, the granules look like chunks of clear gelatin.
For small plants use 1-5 gram/liter of potting soil. For bigger plants use 1-5 gram/liter of potting soil. For new lawn use 30-50g/square meter. Note: Since dry granules swell to many times their original size when water is added, 15-20% swelling room must be left in each planting hole or flower pot to compensate.
Best for small applications such as repotting house plants and planting shrubs, small trees, and bedding plants. Mix the granules in water and allow them to stand for 60-90 minutes.
Use 10 gram package to prepare 1,5 l bottle of Agua-Cristal gel.
Use 55 gram package to prepare 8 l bottle of Agua-Cristal gel.
Once you have the polymer all soaked up, the application rate is roughly one part hydrated polymer to four parts soil.
• 1,5l bottle use for 3-5 small pots (1-2l) applicate metod: close to the roots.
• 8l bottle use for 15-40 small pots (1-2l) or 5-10 medium size pots (5-10l).
Note: Applicate Agua-Cristal in lower half of the pot because the water tends to flow quickly through porous potting soil before the granules near the top have time to re-hydrate fully.
Using the above rates, mix granules or hydrated gel thoroughly in the lower half of the pot. If using dry granules, fill the soil only to within 2-3 centimeters of the pot rim to prevent swelling out of the pot.
Depending on container size, use a pencil or wooden spoon handle to poke 4-6 holes around the plant, going to the bottom. Divide the correct amount of dry granules or wet mixt evenly among the holes, pushing them to the bottom. Water slowly to hydrate the granules. Wait at least 2-3 weeks before changing watering intervals to give feeder roots a chance to grow into the granules.
Vegetable and Flower Gardens
Use 300 gram/100 sq meters for low-water adapted flowers and up to 500 gram/100 sq meters for water loving vegetable and flowers. Hint: The addition of weed-barrier fabric will further reduce the need for water or weeding. By hand, or using a spreader, distribute the granules evenly over the leveled bed and then turn under. Bedding plants may be given a quick start by mixing a handful of hydrated gel in the back fill of each plant, taking care not to leave clumps of gel. Water the bed thoroughly after planting.
Trees and Shrubs
Dig a hole 5 times the diameter, but no deeper than, the root ball or container. To figure out the amount of dry granules needed to mix in the backfill, just calculate the amount of backfill and figure one ounce of granules per cubic foot. The bigger the hole the more polymers you can use and the morewater storage you’ll gain.
Use Agua-Cristal to increase water holding capacity and reduce irrigation frequency.
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