TranspiratiONal 1

Sprayable Biodegradable Polymer Membrane Technology for Agricultural Cropping Systems

To feed and clothe a global population expected to exceed nine billion people by 2050, the world needs to double current food production and radically increase fibre production. Farmers will have to achieve this using the same land areaas is currently being used, but with much less water, less nutrients and less agrochemicals. CSIRO has developed aproduct that can help farmers achieve this.

The product is a prototype water based sprayable biodegradable polymer membrane (the Technology) that can be applied to the soil surface to improve crop water productivity. The efficiency is achieved in two ways: by reducing soil evaporation so more water is retained in the soil, and by inhibiting weed growth so competition for the water in the soil is reduced. The saved water can then be used by the crop plants through the transpiration process to produce greater yields, more income and improved farm profitability. As the polymer membrane is biodegradable it can be used without polluting our soil and water systems.

The Technology has been demonstrated in laboratory pot experiments and in irrigated field plot trials using melons,sorghum and cotton. These trials have confirmed increases in crop water productivity as high as 30%.

The TranspiratiONal team have also carried out more than 200 customer and end-user interviews, which have confirmed large market opportunities, strong demand for the technology and multiple targets for initial market entry.

SIEF funding was provided to undertake an experimental development program to carry out on-farm field trials intarget markets to 1) confirm in-field biodegradability and non-toxicity of the polymer membrane, and determine any risks to soil health; and 2) collect water use, weed, and crop yield data to determine the cost:benefit of different product application rates, across full crop cycles under real world conditions.

A prepared soil bed is being sprayed with a white liquid by a person using a hand held sprayer. Two other people are standing by and two more people are in the background.

A handheld spray unit is used to apply the sprayable polymer to the field site (Image: Keith Bristow).

For further information please contact:

Dr Keith L. Bristow, CSIRO: