Drought is a common problem for many parts of the Voronezh Region, as well as for the whole country. Lack of water and irrigation results in lower agricultural capacity. But our researchers know what to do. They suggest using a special sorbent for irrigation that will absorb water and can then be used to water plants. This will help to reduce significantly the amount of water required for irrigation.
The technology has a long history. The first person to suggest it was a researcher from Mexico – Sergio Velasco. The aim was to solve the irrigation problem, but the technology appeared to be rather expensive.
The study of the technology at VSU was initiated by Rector Dmitry Endovitsky and is now conducted by Professor Vladimir Selemenev, Head of the Department of Analytical Chemistry, and Professor Viktor Semenov, Head of the Department of General and Inorganic Chemistry. New sorbents are synthesized by Professor Vyacheslav Kuznetsov of the Department of High Molecular Compounds and Colloids. Field tests of the sorbents have been carried out at the test field of Voronezh State Agricultural University with Professor Alexey Lukin being in charge of the experiments.
The sorbent consists of little granules. 1 kg of such granules absorbs about 500 litres of water (getting about 100 times larger). The technology is based on the properties of water. Getting into the polymer matrix, water forms connections with its walls and becomes ice, thus getting fixed within the sorbent. This is why it is called solid water. When the humidity level gets lower, the connections get broken, the structure of the liquid changes, and the water enters the soil.
– All you need to do is to sow the sorbent in the field and water it with a large amount of water. After that, everything will happen automatically, and the sorbent will keep the necessary humidity level. When the humidity level gets lower, the granules release the water, and when it rains a lot, they absorb it again. It could be enough to fill one polymer with water once in a year. The granules do not get washed out of the soil, so they can well work for about 5–10 years. Depending on the plant type, the amount of the sorbent and water required, may differ, – said Vladimir Selemenev.
The technology suggested by our researches has several advantages over the existing analogues. The first one is its cost. Due to a new production method, the cost of solid water will be much lower – $10–12 for a 1 kg, while the analogues may cost over $20. The second advantage is that the sorbent synthesized by our researchers can absorb various microelements and fertilizers as well as water. Thus, the plants will get not just water, but also various nutrients. Finally, the technology is environmentally friendly and helps to prevent the soil form becoming marshy or salty, which often happens when traditional irrigation systems are used. The researchers also added their own know-how to the technology, adapting it to the Russian climate - the granules do not get broken down by cold weather, so they can remain in the soil even in winter.
The obvious advantage of the solid water over the traditional irrigation techniques is its economic effectiveness. The amount of water required for irrigation, the frequency and the water consumption rate reduces by over 50%. Moreover, the water-soluble fertilizers and plant protecting chemicals absorbed by the polymer do not get washed away from the soil, which reduces the expenses significantly.
Solid water can be the best solution to agricultural problems in the southern regions of Russia, such as the South of the Voronezh Region, the Volgograd Region, the Astrakhan Region, and the Dzhankoy Region of Crimea.