THE BENEFITS OF NATURAL ZEOLITE TO HYDROPONICS
Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil. In this process, terrestrial plants are grown with their roots exposed to a water solvent containing mineral nutrients similar to those found in soil. Despite this similarity, the underlying chemistry of hydroponic solutions differs from soil and can create unique challenges.
Financial and environmental pressures on the farming industry, including problems associated with waste disposal, have led to demands for use of recyclable products, particularly hydroponic substrates. A study by Harland et al. (1997) tested clinoptilolite zeolite as a reusable hydroponic substrate that support the production of local produce. At the end of each growing season, clinoptilolite was steam-sterilized, placed into new bags, and used as substrate during the following crop season (Harland et al., 1997). After two cycles, the clinoptilolite was compared against other substrates and measurements in growth, fruit yield, and quality provided no evidence that performance decreased due to recycling. Researchers concluded that clinoptilolite can be successfully used as an alternative hydroponic substrate.
A study by Fukuyama et al. (1994) examined the effect of zeolite as a buffering agent in hydroponic solutions. The researchers grew tomato plants in a solution containing excess levels of copper ions that inhibited growth. When zeolite was added to the mix, a recovery of growth was observed. Next, the concentrations of the hydroponic solution were increased until blossom-end rot was induced in the tomato plants. After zeolite was added to the solution, rot reduced dramatically. Based on these tests, researchers determined that zeolite is a successful buffering agent that removes harmful ions and prevents the onset of disorders, like blossom-end rot, that are linked to salt stress (Fukuyama et al., 1994).