Zeolite for water efficiency
Natural zeolites can absorb up to 70% of their weight in water when completely dry or dehydrated. Water is contained within the lattice, honeycomb crystalline structure. And, unlike bentonite clay, zeolite does not compress, expand or change shape when hydrated and dehydrated. This unique capacity for dehydration-rehydration – that is, to absorb water when available and release this water during dry times – can provide a huge benefit for all agricultural systems.
For manure management, zeolite significantly accelerates the drying time making manure storage and transport easier. This is also important in animal stalls as well. With zeolites taking up excess water in the manure, together with ammonia sequestration, the animals are less prone to hoof infections or mastitis in dairy cows. A drier, less odorous environment is much healthier for the animals, as well as for CAFO operators.
Zeolite-enriched agricultural soils provide a valuable benefit during times of both rainfall and drought. Acting as a crystalline sponge, zeolite will absorb water during heavy rainfalls, reducing agricultural runoff from the fields. This helps keep nutrients on-farm, while reducing erosion impacts following storm events. During dry periods zeolite will dehydrate, releasing water previously stored within its lattice structure.
This unique property of zeolite is especially important for agricultural systems in semi-arid conditions of the western US. Water is an extremely valuable commodity and can be a huge on-farm expense. The more zeolite-enriched manures are applied to agricultural fields, the better these fields will be able to minimize deleterious impacts on both crops and soils during storm and drought conditions. Water demands for irrigation should be more consistent and also quantitatively reduced throughout the growing season – in other words, better and more consistent crops produced with lower farmer expenses for purchased water and inorganic fertilizers.