Plasma Sub-Surface Irrigation

Figure 1. The NitroPonicsTM Sub-Surface Irrigation System produces and delivers critical nitrogen compounds and irrigation water directly to the root area of each plant.

The NitroPonics™ Sub-Surface Irrigation System will revolutionize how valuable nitrogen compounds are produced and delivered to their target crops.

To understand the true value of the NitroPonicsTM Sub-Surface Irrigation System we must first have an understanding of the problems associated with traditional forms of irrigation and nutrient delivery.

A plants fixed position constrains it’s ability to acquire mobile nutrients such as nitrate. Whereas the proliferation of roots might help in the longer term, nitrate-rich patches can shiſt rapidly with mass flow of water in the soil. A mechanism that produces and delivers nitrate to the general root area of individual plants would be highly desirable. Here, we discuss that by implementing the use of the said mechanism that the nitrate concentration around roots would induce an immediate alteration of root hydraulic properties such that water is preferentially absorbed from the nitrate-rich patch. Further, we show that this coupling between nitrate availability and water acquisition results from changes in cell membrane hydraulic properties and is directly related to intracellular nitrate concentrations. Split-root experiments in which nitrate was applied to a portion of the root system showed that the response is both localized and reversible, resulting in rapid changes in water uptake to the portions of the roots exposed to the nitrate-rich patch. At the same time, water uptake by roots not supplied with nitrate was reduced. It is believed that the increase in root hydraulic conductance in one part causes a decline of water uptake in the other part due to a collapse in the water potential gradient driving uptake. The translation of local information, in this case nitrate concentration, into a hydraulic signal that can be transmitted rapidly throughout the plant and thus coordinate responses at the whole plant level, represents an unexpected, higher level physiological interaction that precedes the level of gene expression.

Nitrogen is the mineral nutrient that plants require in greatest quantities. Despite its abundance, nitrogen availability in soils is limited by mineralization rates and immobilization. Many plants respond to low nitrate availability by induction of root extension growth with suppressed branching or to regions of high nitrate availability by root proliferation. However, oſten growth cannot match the temporal and spatial variation of nitrate patches. Furthermore, in field conditions leading to high root densities oſten leave little room for additional proliferation. To solve this problem it will require a 2 step approach: (1) a means of producing nitrate on-site and at a volume that would make it appealing to farmers; and (2) a means to deliver the nitrate directly to individual plant root zones where it can be quickly assimilated. See Figure 1.

At GreenPath Industries we’ve developed a plasma technology that produces both liquid and gas phase ROS & RNS. To overcome atmospheric losses of the valuable gas phase species produced using plasma we’ve developed a delivery system capable of delivering all gas and liquid components directly to the target plant root area. This technology is called “Nitroponics™ Sub-Surface Irrigation” and it involves utilizing a hard wall irrigation hoses that are positioned to lay along side row crops or ornamentals in a flower bed setting. The hose is used to transport both gas and liquid phase ROS & RNS to the target plant’s. As second set of smaller hoses “around 1/4” OD” connects to the larger hose on one end and is inserted into the soil under the target plants on the other. The smaller hose features several small openings that allow both gas and liquids to pass through. Nitrates (NO3) which are delivered by the water is nearly immediately taken up by the plant mycorrhizae. Other nitrogen species such as Nitrites (NO2) exit the injection system mostly as a gas and are assimilated by nitrifying bacteria where it is oxidized into nitrate. In Figure 2 we see a graphic illustration of the Nitroponics™ system where compressed air and water are supplied to the plasma reactor unit. A hose connects the distribution manifold to the plasma reactor and carries the gas and liquids to the injectors and delivers them to the plant roots.

Figure 3

In Figure 3 is a picture of a typical raised bed garden utilizing a Nitroponics system to deliver nitrogen and plasma activated water to the crops. Note that the large diameter black tubing is the same type used to deliver irrigation water, in this case it was configured to deliver both liquids and gas. Connected to the large tube is many smaller 1/4” tubes which are in tern connected to the gas injectors which are embedded in the soil. Each gas injector is positioned in such a way that the discharge holes are located in close proximity to the plants main root mass. Water and nitrogen delivered in this manor can impact plant physiology almost immediately enabling farmers to ensure optimal crop health and vitality.

Farm crops raised utilizing the Nitroponics™ system will have many distinct advantages when compared to those implementing traditional farming practices. The Nitroponics™ system will greatly enhance plant health, optimize growth, improve harvest yield and reduce overall water consumption. The Nitroponics™ system is scalable in design enabling it to function well at a 1/2 acre family farm or in support of a 100 acre commercial farm. The Nitroponics™ system is also ideally suited for use with in-ground, raised bed and vertical farming applications.

Please contact us with any questions or comments regarding your specific application.