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AGRIBUSINESS: University Develops Technology to Boost Production in Dry Years

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Michigan State University scientists have developed a subsurface water retention membrane that has been shown to increase vegetable production in dry years. According to MSU AgBioResearch scientist and soil biophysics professor Alvin Smucker - the technology could change lives and regional landscapes in the U.S. and abroad where highly permeable, sandy soils have prohibited the sustainable production of food. He says these membranes reduce quantities of supplemental irrigation, protect potable groundwater supplies and enable more efficient use and control of fertilizers and pesticides.

The subsurface water retention membrane is a contoured film that can be placed under the crop’s root zones to help retain water in the soil. It also allows for proper drainage and root growth. On test farm plots where the membranes were used - yields for cucumbers were up 145-percent over control fields without the membranes. Corn yields were increased by 174-percent.

Michigan State University says this new technology could be used on a wide range of crops - including cellulosic biomass feedstock, fuel production crops and to increase production on marginal lands.