Saltwater solution to save crops

Sep 11, 2008

Technology under development at the University of New South Wales could offer new hope to farmers in drought-affected and marginal areas by enabling crops to grow using salty groundwater.

Associate Professor Greg Leslie, a chemical engineer at UNSW's UNESCO Centre for Membrane Science and Technology, is working with the University of Sydney on technology which uses reverse-osmosis membranes to turn previously useless, brackish groundwater into a valuable agricultural resource.

"We are looking at ways to grow plants on very salty water without damaging soil," Professor Leslie said.

"We're incorporating a reverse osmosis membrane into a sub-surface drip irrigation system."

The irrigation system relies on the roots of the plant drawing salty groundwater through the membrane – in doing so removing the salt which would otherwise degrade the soil and make continued cropping unsustainable.


Desalination such as this requires a pressure gradient to draw clean water through the membrane. Professor Leslie has demonstrated that, by running irrigation lines under the ground beneath the plants, the root systems of the plants provide enough of a pressure gradient to draw up water without the high energy consumption usually required for desalination.

"We're going to provide agriculture with a tool to grow crops in drought years when there is limited access to run-off and surface water," he said.

The membrane technology, developed by Professor Leslie and the University of Sydney's Professor Bruce Sutton, has been patented by UNSW's commercial arm, NewSouth Innovations.

Source: University of New South Wales

Explore further: NASA sees Typhoon Matmo making second landfall in China

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Molecular snapshots of oxygen formation in photosynthesis

Jul 11, 2014

Researchers from Umeå University, Sweden, have explored two different ways that allow unprecedented experimental insights into the reaction sequence leading to the formation of oxygen molecules in photosynthesis. ...

Recommended for you

NASA's HS3 mission spotlight: The HIRAD instrument

5 hours ago

The Hurricane Imaging Radiometer, known as HIRAD, will fly aboard one of two unmanned Global Hawk aircraft during NASA's Hurricane Severe Storm Sentinel or HS3 mission from Wallops beginning August 26 through ...

Fires in the Northern Territories July 2014

18 hours ago

Environment Canada has issued a high health risk warning for Yellowknife and surrounding area because of heavy smoke in the region due to forest fires. In the image taken by the Aqua satellite, the smoke ...

How much magma is hiding beneath our feet?

19 hours ago

Molten rock (or magma) has a strong influence on our planet and its inhabitants, causing destructive volcanic eruptions and generating some of the giant mineral deposits. Our understanding of these phenomena ...

User comments : 0