One of the core issues surrounding the planting of trees and maintenance of crops or plantations is how to efficiently water them. Currently 1/3 of the world’s population lives in regions where water is scarce and this number is expected to double by 2025. These areas of dry land also have other soil issues, like erosion, which mean that the substrate is no longer able to support plant life.
A device created by Dutch inventor, Pieter Hoff, has the potential to mitigate some of the issues faced by farmers and business in areas of drought – the Groasis Waterboxx. The Waterboxx was recently listed as one of Popular Science’s top 10 inventions of 2010, and is designed to trap condensation that falls from the plant’s leaves during the night.
According to the Popular Science website :
The box is coolest at its top, the part that has the most contact with the open air. Water condenses on the cover and flows down into a small holding tank, where it’s trapped, along with any rainwater. The collected water and the box itself keep the plant and its roots hydrated and protected.
At the same time, a candle-like wick on the bottom of the box slowly drips small doses of the water into the soil and root system underneath, providing enough for the plant’s first year of life but still leaving the roots thirsty enough to grow strong and deep. The box can easily be lifted up off the ground, over the top of the plant, and reused.
Over the past few years Hoff has taken the boxes to various drought stricken regions to test their viability. In 2006 he took 25 of the boxes into the Sahara desert. After one year, 88% of plants using the Waterboxx device had survived, with green leaves present on their branches. Conversely, 90% of the trees planted and watered by traditional methods had died.
Currently there are over 25 experimental projects taking place world-wide to further investigate the potential of the device. Examples of experiments include a slow-growing fruit trial in Spain, more plantings in both the east and west Saharan desert and a trial in Joshua Tree National park to investigate its potential in areas affected by fire.
According to a New York Times interview , Hoff’s ideal scenario would allow for the Groasis Waterboxx to be widely available to even the poorest of communities and he is currently speaking to Dutch banks and investors about setting up a micro-finance scheme to enable farmers in developing countries to purchase the device.
“If we were able to plant two billion hectares with trees we could solve many of the world’s problems,” he said. “We have cut down about two billion hectares of trees in the last 2000 years. So if it’s small enough to cut it, it’s small enough to replant it again if we want.”
Article by Kate R. appearing courtesy of Celsias.