RESEARCH funded by Innovate UK is currently looking into whether Ultra Fine Bubbles (UFBs) can be used to enhance plant growth and improve soil health.
The research, which is being carried out by Cranfield University, is specifically examing whether UFB technology will enhance water use efficiency, thereby promoting crop growth and productivity.
Partners involved in the project include MagGrow, The Crop Health and Protection AgriTech Centre (CHAP); The Agri Engineering, Precision and Innovation AgriTech Centre (AgriEPI) alongside Cranfield University.
Tiny, stable, long-lasting bubbles are believed to have great potential in agriculture and are applied via spraying operations and irrigation.
If effective, UFB will improve plant water uptake, reducing the quantity and frequency of irrigation water needed by crops, and reduce the quantity of chemical inputs (spraying) needed to fertilise crops. The technology could also have the added bonus of controlling pests and diseases.
One experiment is being carried out on the high value crisping variety, Maris Piper on sandy loam soil (typical for growing) with in a controlled environment in a CHAP glasshouse.
• 12 soil boxes / lysimeters (1m x 1m x 0.775m)
• Sandy loam soil – typical for potato growing
• RB209 fertiliser recommendation (N:P:K)
• 3 plants per lysimeter to represent commercial plant density
Three different treatments are being trialled, with soil properties being analysed at the start and end of the experiment, to assess N, P, K (total and bioavailable) and pH, soil moisture content – using soil moisture probes, Soil infiltration rate – using infiltrometers and soil temperature.
The treatments are as follows:
• Treatment 1 - control (deionised water)
• Treatment 2 - air-based UFBs in deionised water
• Treatment 3 - oxygen-based UFBs in deionised water
Crop growth measurements during the experiment are made above and below ground using root cameras. Crop yield will be assessed at the end of the experiment, while biomass (above and below ground) and crop disease such as late blight are being monitored.
Analysis of outputs is currently awaited.