Some of the most important applications of zeolites are in water treatment (wastewater and drinking water), agriculture, and metal immobilization in soils. Based on cost effectiveness, four main areas where zeolites are finding application as ion-exchangers are: in detergents; in ammonia/ammonium removal from wastewater effluent; in radioactive isotope removal from spent pile effluent and in agriculture. In agriculture, zeolites have numerous applications, as slow release fertilizers, as heavy metal removers, as soil conditioners, increasing the nutrient and water use efficiency along with increasing crop yield. Farmers add zeolites to soil to control soil pH and improve ammonium retention. Zeolites can increase soil CEC, act as a reservoir of K+ and increase the water-holding capacity of loamy sand soils if very large amounts are added. Studies on synthetic Phillipsite and natural Clinoptilolite supplemented soils showed an increase in water holding capacity (18-19%) and CEC (30-40%). Soils supplemented with both synthetic and natural zeolites can be used as effective fertilizers on saturating the zeolites with ammonium. Nitrogen loss from irrigated cropland, significantly contributes to nitrate contamination of both underground and surface waters. Zeolites (both natural and synthetic) when added as a fertilizer amendment to soil can increase crop yield and prevent water pollution from nitrates and heavy metals, thereby saving the cost for future improvement. Zeolites improve nutrient use efficiency by increasing P availability, improving the use of NH4+-N and NO3-N, reducing leaching losses of exchangeable cations, especially K and also acting as slow-release fertilizer. Zeolite can hold nutrients in the root zone for plants to use when required. This leads to more efficient use of N and K fertilizers - either less fertilizer for the same yield or the same amount of fertilizer lasting longer and producing higher yields. Soil fertilized or amended with organo-zeolite mixtures regulate N release and minimize reactive N (NO3) formation. It can be concluded that N loaded zeolites could be used as a controlled release fertilizer, and continued research in enhanced ammonia supply by zeolite as carrier will result in better nitrogen/ fertilization management.
Audience Take Away:
- Zeolites have enormous applications, and their use in agriculture dates back to 1960. My talk will focus on the various aspects of zeolites which would benefit agriculture in semi-arid as well as arid regions of the world. Zeolites have a profound effect on soil physical, chemical and biological properties, therefore my talk will involve past results from all of these aspects. The audience would get a clear picture about the role of zeolites in agriculture as how these microporous materials can mitigate climate change particularly nitrate pollutions of underground water due to excessive usage of fertilizers which is a major problem in most of the developed and developing countries. The audience can start using these materials in their gardens and advice farmers to use these materials keeping in view reduction of chemical fertilizers.
- Zeolite research can be used by many faculties as it has many applications. It definitely provides a practical solution in the form of slow release fertilizers which will reduce N usage and play a vital role in improving soil properties. It will help fertilizer industries to tailor their products and also help in reducing the fertilizer usage by farmers. Researchers working in the field of agriculture can make use of zeolites to increase soil moisture, soil water holding capacity and soil aggregation which all play a vital role in increasing crop yield. Some of the benefits of zeolites in agriculture are: increase in crop yield, reduction in chemical usage, drought proofing and finally environmentally friendly product.