A natural mineral known as zeolite may be the answer to increasing soil quality and plant growth. Zeolites are naturally occurring crystalline aluminosilicates with a highly porous atomic structure and a negative charge that enables them to attract and retain water-soluble cations, such as ammonium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
Zeolites are highly efficient cation exchangers, water sorbents, and uncharged molecular adsorbents due to their unique physicochemical features. In addition to their abundance in sedimentary deposits and rocks produced from volcanic parent materials, zeolites have been found to be valuable in several industrial, environmental, and agricultural applications.
Animal husbandry, water purification, and air purification account for around 70% of overall consumption. Many soil physicochemical parameters, such as infiltration rate, saturated hydraulic conductivity, water holding capacity, and aeration, have been reported to be enhanced by zeolites. They boost soil cation exchange capacity and water retention in the root zone, reduce mineral component leaching, sequester heavy metals and organic contaminants in contaminated soils, and buffer soil pH levels, among other benefits.
By preserving beneficial nutrients in the root zone, adding zeolite to soil has been demonstrated to drastically cut water and fertiliser costs. The mineral functions as a slow-release fertiliser, accumulating nutrients when they are free, preventing their leaching, and releasing them as needed by plants.
Several hypotheses for the good benefits of zeolites on plant yield, growth, and resistance to abiotic challenges, such as drought and metal toxicity, rely on the positive effects of zeolites on soil characteristics. Many articles describe the advantages of zeolite use for sunflower, soybean, tomato, radish, bean, potato, clover, maize, winter wheat, and sugarcane, among other plants. Several mineral dosages, ranging from less than 10 t/ha to more than 120 t/ha, produce these results.
Zeolites' Contribution to Soil Improvement
Zeolites are excellent at improving soil quality due to their unique physicochemical features, which allow them to hold and exchange cations, retain water, and trap heavy metals and organic pollutants in polluted soils. In addition, zeolites function as a slow-release fertiliser, charging when free nutrients are available and releasing them as needed by the plant.
Zeolites augment the soil's cation exchange capacity, water retention in the root zone, and mineral component leaching. Moreover, the mineral reduces the requirement for lime application by buffering the soil's pH levels. Unlike other soil additions, zeolite does not decompose over time but rather remains in the soil to improve nutrient retention, hence decreasing water and fertiliser costs by a substantial amount.
The impacts of zeolites on soil parameters have been used to explain the favourable benefits of zeolites on plant yield, growth, and resistance to abiotic stressors. Many articles describe the advantages of zeolite use for sunflower, soybean, tomato, radish, bean, potato, clover, maize, winter wheat, and sugarcane, among other plants.
In a recent field experiment, a common variety of spring wheat was chosen as the test plant in order to observe the responses of a plant and soil to low zeolite concentrations. The experiment focused on the physicochemical parameters that are most significant for soil-plant interactions, including cation exchange capacity, specific surface area, water sorption energy, water retention, and mesoporosity. Similar literature reports are missing, according to the authors' knowledge. Even at modest doses, zeolite enhanced the quantitative and qualitative characteristics of wheat production dramatically.
Zeolites work as a fertiliser battery, charging when free nutrients are available, storing them to prevent leaching, and discharging them when needed. Zeolite, unlike other soil additives such as lime, does not decompose over time but rather remains in the soil to promote nutrient retention. Its incorporation into soil substantially saves water and fertiliser expenditures by preserving beneficial nutrients in the root zone.
Zeolite has a tremendous capacity to transfer water throughout soil, making it an exceptional capillary distributor. It’s very porous atomic structure and negative charge enable it to attract and retain water-soluble cations such as ammonium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, as well as water. This makes zeolite an important tool for both gardeners and farmers, as it improves soil quality and plant growth.
In addition to acting as a natural wetting agent and water distributor, zeolite boosts the efficacy of fertilisers by retaining nutrients and making them available to plants when they need them. Unique characteristics of zeolite prevent nutrients from seeping through soils and contaminating waterways. Hence, it is an eco-friendly method for raising soil quality and crop production.
Zeolite has multiple use, including as a soil additive, in potting mixes, in compost heaps, and as mulch. Zeolite, when added to soil, can enhance soil infiltration rate, water retention capacity, aeration, and cation exchange capacity. In addition, it reduces the leaching of minerals and traps heavy metals and organic contaminants in contaminated soils.
In addition to its soil-enhancement properties, zeolite offers a vast array of industrial applications. It functions as an adsorbent for gases and liquids, a catalyst in chemical reactions, and a filler in plastics and rubber. Its unusual qualities make it applicable in a range of contexts, including water treatment facilities and nuclear waste disposal sites.