Good Fruit Grower

April 1

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Page 40 of 55 GOOD FRUIT GROWER APRIL 1, 2015 41 implementation in the United States, Australia, the Middle East, Africa, China, Southeast Asia, and South America. "Today's new SWRT applications to sandy soils offer the potential to transform barren landscapes into sustainable plant production regions that transform lives and communities," he wrote. The potential market is huge. The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that the technol- ogy could be applied globally to 5.3 billion acres that are now not producing food or fiber. Not only are there millions of acres of arid and desert land, worldwide, that could be more effectively irrigated if the soil had a barrier to reduce water loss, but there are millions of acres of sandy soil in higher rainfall areas that could produce better if the soil would hold more water when it falls. Smucker has tested the system in Michigan, where rainfall is good but sea- sonal, and crops on sandy soils, including in the fruit belt along Lake Michigan, wither and die in August. SWRT Solutions have also been installed in the drylands of west Texas, where cotton yields were increased nearly five-fold. "Where highly permeable soils have prohibited the production of food, water retention membranes reduce quantities of supplemental irrigation and fertilizer protecting potable groundwater supplies and enable more efficient use and control of fertilizers and pesticides," he says. Low cost Not only is the potential market large, but the cost is surprisingly low. Smucker says installation costs from $1,400 to $1,800 an acre, and the "fix" is virtually permanent unless someone desired to install a biodegradable film instead. "The return on investment for the installation of these membranes, which improve the yields on a broad range of crops, is less than one year for vegetable crops," Smucker said. "Plus, this is a zero-maintenance system with sustain- able water-holding capacities up to 300 years. This could have a major impact on providing food and bio-based energy for the future." Yields in Michigan have been doubled, tripled, even quadrupled. Smucker has test plots in west Michigan's fruit and vegetable production belt. He is begin- ning similar research with blueberries and working on designs that would apply it to tree fruits. The membranes could be installed in existing orchards or before new orchards are planted. On irrigated plots, the barriers reduced the need for irrigation by about 50 percent by preventing water loss by percolation and increasing the water holding capac- ity of sandy soils. Another benefit is soil improvement. Crop residues on produc- tive soils sequester carbon and increase soil organic matter. Smucker is working with installations in other countries—including Israel, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, China, and Saudi Arabia. Near Baghdad in Iraq, he said, not only have they achieved higher yields with less water, but they have been able to reduce soil salinity by using salt-free water to irrigate roots in these SWRT membranes. After years of improper irrigation, much of the farmland around the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers has been abandoned because of high salt content. Easier to use The machine Smucker worked with in the 1960s was not easy to use, he said. "The asphalt had to be hot, 160˚F to 180˚F, and supplied by a tanker truck. It was a cationic solution. A chisel six feet wide lifted the soil, hot asphalt was sprayed from behind the chisel, and ammonia gas was injected to solidify the asphalt imme- diately so the sand could settle back on top of it." In the Michigan Farmer article in 1966, the writers skirted around the hardening process—the asphalt-ammonia combina- tion—which was then a secret and a key part of the patent. Smucker thinks the time is right for the new technology. It could be a game changer in places like the western United States, where urban and industrial centers compete with farmers for scarce water supplies. "There now is a long-term technology that controls optimal quantities of soil water, one of the world's most finite crit- ical natural resources," Smucker wrote in one of his published papers. • COURTESY OF AL SMUCKER "This is a zero- maintenance system with sustainable water-holding capacities up to 300 years." —Alvin Smucker The quality of our trees is matched only by the quality of our service. At ProTree Nursery we understand that you rely on quality — both in product and in service. That's why we plant only the very best varieties and cultivate lasting customer relationships. We work hard to make your job worry-free — fulfilling your orders completely and standing by our trees, even after you've planted them. For a reliable tree resource, call ProTree Nursery today. 10500 Brentwood Blvd., Brentwood, CA 94513 800.634.1671 or 925.634.2191 (Alison Clegg or Richard Chavez) 877.457.6901 (Henry Sanguinetti) Apples Aztec Fuji ® (DT-2 cv) Banning Red Fuji (USPP 16,624 P2) Blondee™ (USPP 19,007 McLaughlin cv) Buckeye ® Gala (USPP 10,840) Firestorm™ Honeycrisp Honeycrisp™ (USPP 7197) JonaStar JonaGold™ (USPP 20,590) September Wonder™ Fuji (USPP 11,193) Ultima™ Gala (USPP 13,753 P2) These apple varieties are available on B-118, BUD-10, EMLA-7, EMLA-26, EMLA-106, EMLA-111, G-30, M-9 (T-337), NIC ® -29, or Pajam #2. Cherries Benton™ Bing Black Tart BlackPearl ® Brooks™ BurgundyPearl ® Chelan™ Coral Champagne Cristalina™ EbonyPearl ® Lapins RadiancePearl ® Rainier Selah™ Skeena™ Sweetheart™ Tamora Tulare™ Vans Available on Colt, Gisela ® , Krymsk ® , Mahaleb, or Mazzard. * * Not all varieties are available on all rootstocks. Call for specific grafting information. M E M B E R O F w w w . p r o t r e e n u r s e r y. c o m

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