Aerating drip irrigation water (inset) has been demonstrated to improve yield and quality in strawberries and other fruits.

California State University, Fresno — used sophisticated DNA analysis and a growing understanding of the soil ecosystem to study the impact of the root aeration system on soil microbial populations in a replicated trial. Their experiment focused on the DNA of the microbes in their samples, which allowed them to measure the relative intensity — or a rough proportion — of various nitrogen-fixing and denitrifying-genetic material found in each treatment.

They found that the portion of the field irrigated with the air injection system had a microbial population that was less likely to produce volatile nitrous oxides and more likely to leave plant-available nitrate in the root zone.

Who Will Save the World?

There’s no question that irrigation is a lifeline that will help mankind weather an increasingly erratic climate and meet the mushrooming demand for food, fuel and fiber. Increasing the efficiency of irrigation and making every drop of water and every joule of energy count will be vital. One of the key lessons we’re learning as we uncover the mysteries of the soil is just how complex the world of the root zone really is. By balancing water and oxygen in the soil and enhancing the environment for the microbial traders that give our crops the best possible deal, we can help farmers literally save the world.

This cross section of two young tomato roots shows the increase in diameter, cell size and cortex area of a root-supplied aerated irrigation water (right) compared to another root irrigated with unaerated water (left). Both roots were grown in saline conditions.

Jim Lauria is vice president of sales and marketing for Mazzei Injector Company, LLC. He holds a bachelor of chemical engineering degree from Manhattan College and has over 20 years of global water

treatment experience in the agricultural, municipal, industrial and commercial markets. 17

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