Nanotechnology in agricultural soil moisture management
Soil is the basis of terrestrial ecosystems and agriculture, it participates in the cycle of nutrients, the storage, and infiltration of water, the support of plants, and microbial activity. Progressive soil degradation and desertification processes advance rapidly in countries of the Andean region, reducing agricultural production, which negatively impacts the economy of rural families, causing hunger and poverty. Additionally, the drought generated by climate change, which is becoming more frequent in the Andean region, is also generating great losses in agriculture and the economy of families. The project seeks to use nanotechnology (nanoclays and hydrogels) to help improve the moisture retention capacity of soils and thus increase agricultural productivity in areas undergoing desertification and/or drought. Nanoclays have very small particles, with a large contact surface that allows incorporating large amounts of water into their structure. Hydrogels have a high water retention capacity, are biodegradable, have a low environmental impact, and are inexpensive. Both materials will be developed in Ecuador by scientists from Yachay Tech University (UYT), evaluated under controlled conditions by INIAP (Ecuador), evaluated and validated in a participatory manner in real field conditions in four crops (potato, quinoa, corn, and wheat) by PROINPA (Bolivia) and by INIAP. Producers and private companies from both countries, interested in acquiring and applying the technology, will participate in the validation process. The project includes training of local actors, dissemination of results through written and audiovisual material, creation and use of digital communication platforms, and generation of scientific articles. The project will be carried out in 3 years, with PROINPA being the executing institution and UYT and INIAP being the co-executing institutions.
The technological solution
The project strategy is based on the development and use of nanoclays and hydrogels. Nanoclays have very small particles, with a large contact and expansion surface that allow them to retain large amounts of water. Hydrogels are manufactured from cellulose fibers obtained from agricultural waste and are inexpensive. Both materials have the ability to retain large volumes of water and have a low environmental impact, therefore they are ideal for agricultural applications. After being developed in the laboratory, these products will be incorporated into degraded soils to see their effect on water retention, increasing microbial diversity and improving agricultural productivity.
The use of nanoclays and / or hydrogels is expected to increase the moisture retention capacity of soils by more than 10% (each one) and to improve the productivity of crops by more than 20% each, an aspect that will have repercussions directly in the increase of the economic income of the families of the producers and also in the diversification of crops.
The materials developed will be validated in a participatory manner by farmers from Bolivia and Ecuador. It is estimated that they will be widely accepted by farmers and there is the possibility of adapting and producing this technology by the associated private companies that will participate in the project. In this sense, the project will carry out a wide dissemination of the results, including the training of farmers, technicians and other actors in the management and use of nanoclays and hydrogels. The dissemination will also include the creation and use of a digital communication platform that will be made up of the co-executing agencies of the project, associated organizations and other related organizations. On the other hand, it will seek to disseminate the results of the project through the preparation of printed materials, scientific articles and others. As a general result, it is expected to promote the dissemination of the progress and results of the project to more than 2000 producers, researchers, technicians and students at a national and international level.
The direct beneficiaries of the project will be 2000 producers, producers, students and technicians from different communities where the project will be developed in Bolivia and Ecuador. The indirect beneficiaries will be producers, producers, technicians, social organizations, students and private companies from other regions of Bolivia and Ecuador. The potential beneficiaries will be other actors related to the agricultural sector at the national and regional levels.
Sustainable Development Goals
- Fundación para la Promoción e Investigación de Productos Andinos (PROINPA) - Bolivia
- Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Agropecuarias (INIAP) - Ecuador
- Universidad Yachay Tech (UYT) - Ecuador
- BIOTOP SRL (BIOTOP SRL) - Bolivia
- CIFEMA SA (CIFEMA SA) - Bolivia
- AGROBAZE SA (AGROBAZE SA) - Ecuador
- ECUAQUIMICA (ECUAQUIMICA) - Ecuador
- ASOCIACION DE PRODUCTORES LA FLORIDA (FLORIDA) - Bolivia
- SANTAMARINA (SANTAMARINA) - Bolivia
- IBAGROCEREAL (IBAGROCEREAL) - Bolivia