Experts have often asserted that rainwater is different from irrigation water. How so? In a nutshell, rainwater is considered pure and typically includes additional atmospheric nutrients like sulfur.
Well water usually contains less dissolved oxygen, or gaseous oxygen (O2), than rainwater. Water rich in dissolved oxygen is generally considered healthier in terms of overall quality. In addition, some in the industry attest that greater dissolved oxygen improves uptake of water and nutrients in plants, and plants respond differently to rainwater.
“Rainwater comes with gases, carbon dioxide, dioxides, sulfur dioxide, oxygen from the atmosphere. It's 100% pure,” says Douglas Stengel, president and CEO of Nano Ag Technologies.
With his new product, AGpHRx, Stengel says, “we're taking water out of the ground and making it more like rainwater.”
AGpHRx is a food-grade, biological-based surfactant nano product that's designed to balance pH, increase dissolved oxygen levels, and improve uptake of water and nutrients. He recommends applying it at 16 ounces per acre per pivot pass, three times a year.
AGpHRx, according to Stengel, uses a micro-encapsulation process to embed a biocatalyst and surfactant on molecules in water and nutrients, which bonds these molecules to nano-sized particles in AGpHRx.
How small are these particles? Typically, about 50 nanometers. For reference, a nanometer is a billionth of a meter; a sheet of paper is about 100,000 nanometers thick. This process is designed to enhance the shape and structure of molecules, oxidizing them into nano-sized molecules, making them bioavailable, and improving uptake of these products.
Because the nano particles make oxygen move more freely, Stengel says it helps feed microbes in the soil and open up compacted soil, Stengel says. This also helps balance soil pH close to 6 or 7.
Stengel says as a nano-biocatalyst, it can also make salts in the soil available to the plant by removing sodium from the chloride chain, turning it into a simple salt — pure sodium — and getting rid of the chloride. “A plant can use 30% to 40% of salts if it's in a usable form,” he says.
At the Irrigation Research Foundation's research and demonstration farm near Yuma, Colo., AGpHRx was tested on corn under a pivot with variable-rate irrigation and injection in 2017.
Charles Corey, director at IRF, notes the product was tested on six blocks – one control, and two blocks for two different timings of different rates, each replicated with three additional blocks in the same field. By measuring the amount of water in the profile with capacitance probes, and measuring plant response indicators like temperature and growth stages, Corey notes they could monitor how well the plant took up the water with the product and without – and how much water leeched through the profile.
While all three treatments had similar amounts of water applied throughout the growing season (12.34 and 12.54 inches for both AGpHRx treatments, and 12.79 for the control), yields were increased with the AGpHRx treatments – both treatments yielded 240 and 252 bushels per acre, compared to 223 bushels on the control.
Results showed water applied with AGpHRx went further in terms of yield, and Corey says this is due to a change in water quality. The water treated with AGpHRx resulted in higher bushels per inch of water applied.
“The leeching properties aren't there,” he says. “There was definitely more plant uptake. In the control, we saw more leeching in the control rather than in the treatment area.”
However, he notes, with only one year of data, more research is needed to say whether the product results in a consistent yield increase. “When it came down to it, the treatment definitely had higher yields,” Corey says. “But it's about repeatability. We've got to do it again. If we can repeat it next year, then we can say it's a definite thing.”