Belgian scientist uses hydrogels to turn dirt into gardens (Google / Ecofriend / Popular Science)

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Belgian scientist uses hydrogels to turn dirt into gardens

Anupam | Jul 10 2010

willem van cotthems hydrogel planting technique_1

Eco Factor: Water saving technique allows plants to grow everywhere.

Belgian scientist Willem van Cotthem is aiming to grow tropical crops anywhere in the world where it’s warm. The technique is based on the use of hydrogels, powerful absorbent polymers that can suck up hundreds of times their weight in water. Hydrogels are commonly used in disposable diapers, but this new technology uses them to grow plants using less water.

The difference with agricultural hydrogels is that after trapping water, they slowly release it again into the roots of plants. Since water alone won’t make plant flourish in sand, the scientist has created a “soil conditioner” called Terracottem. Terracottem is an 8-to-12-inch layer of dirt impregnated with agricultural hydrogels, along with organic agents that nourish the natural bacteria in soil.

The tests have been fruitful and have helped in converting barren plots of land to food growing heavens. To make sure that farmers over the world get enough seeds to maximize the use of technology, the scientist has also launched a non-profit organization called Seeds for Food that ask people to mail in unwanted seeds that can be planted elsewhere.

Via: Popsci

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Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.