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Synthesis and characterization of hydrophobic soil and its applications in reducing water evaporation and enhancing growth of plants, water harvesting in construction

Author(s): Prakash Mehta

 Plants cannot live without water! and most plants require considerable quantities of water. The amounts needed vary with the
types of plants, conditions, stages of growth, rapidity of growth and other factors. Because soils vary greatly in their capacities to
absorb and retain moisture, and make it available to plants, it is necessary to consider the soil as well as the plants when dealing
with water transport to the plant. With varying patterns of climate changes and variability, water resources for agriculture may
become more unpredictable. Food security and water availability for agriculture have become important topics in the wake of
global warming and climate changes. Maize ranks third after rice and wheat in terms of cereal crops with global importance.
Maize production and productivity both are highly susceptible to drought stress particularly at early growth and silking stage.
Increase in plant water availability through technological intervention is the need of time as the country and as the whole world is
facing serious issue of decrease in ground water content. Recent development of hydrophobic soil could be one of the major
breakthroughs in the area of water conservation as observed in our recent study under controlled conditions using maize as a
model crop. Hydrophobic coating with organosilane can certainly reduce the evaporation rate and enhance the vegetative growth
of plants. Experiments on morphological and physiological effect of hydrophobic soil on growth of maize using four hydrophobic
soil layers (0.5, 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 cm) on top of normal soil was conducted at Anand Agricultural University, Anand, Gujarat, India
revealed significant increase in shoot length, number of leaves and stem diameter which clearly reflected growth promotary
effects of hydrophobic layering on normal soil compared to control plants. It showed response in the scale of 1.0>0.5>2.0>3.0 cm
of top soil layering. This increase may be attributed due to lesser water stress as experienced by the control plants which showed
lesser growth and performance compared to all the soil layering plants. This technology for hydrophobic soil can also be used for
natural water harvesting reservoir. Building foundation can be compacted with hydrophobic soil to prevent capillary rise of water
into building structures.

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