Oxygen is an essential plant nutrient – plant root systems require oxygen for aerobic respiration, an essential plant process that releases energy for root growth and nutrient uptake. Oxygen supplied for plant root uptake is provided mostly as dissolved oxygen (DO) held in the nutrient solutions used to irrigate the plants. If depletion of this dissolved oxygen in the root system occurs, growth of plants and water and mineral uptake are reduced.
Injury from low (or no) oxygen in the root zone can take several forms and these will differ in severity between plant types. Often the first sign of inadequate oxygen supply to the roots is wilting of the plant under warm conditions and high light levels. Insufficient oxygen reduces the permeability of the roots to water and there will be an accumulation of toxins, so that both water and minerals are not absorbed in sufficient amounts to support plant growth. This wilting is accompanied by slower rates of photosynthesis and carbohydrate transfer, so that over time, plant growth is reduced and yields are affected. If oxygen starvation continues, mineral deficiencies will begin to show, roots die back and plants will become stunted. If the lack of oxygen continues in the root zone, plants produce a stress hormone – ethylene, which accumulates in the roots and causes collapse of the root cells, at this stage pathogens such as pythium can easily take hold and destroy the plant.
Healthy roots supplied with sufficient oxygen are able to absorb nutrient ions selectively from the surrounding solution as required. The metabolic energy which is required to drive this nutrient uptake process is obtained from root respiration using oxygen. In fact, there can be a net loss of nutrient ions from a plant’s root system when suffering from a lack of oxygen (anaerobic conditions). Without sufficient oxygen in the root zone, plants are unable to take up mineral nutrients in the concentrations required for maximum growth and development. Maintaining maximum levels of dissolved oxygen boosts nutrient uptake by ensuring that healthy roots have the energy required to rapidly take up and transport water and mineral ions to the plant.
Current Oxygenation Technologies
While there are a number of methods that can be used to introduce oxygen into a nutrient solution, many of these, such as ozone treatment, are expensive and not often used by smaller growers. One of the most used methods of getting more dissolved oxygen into a plant’s root system is through forcing air into the nutrient that is delivered to the plants through irrigation systems. Air pumps are widely available in a range of sizes, from very small up to very large with the capacity to run from one to many air-stones or diffusers which introduce hundreds of micro bubbles of ambient air into the nutrient solution. Unfortunately, these relatively large bubbles of a micron or more in size, rapidly rise to the surface of the solution and disperse before the solution reaches the plants.
While oxygen is absorbed into the solution as the bubbles rise, the absorption rate is relatively low. Large volumes of gas must be introduced to achieve desired DO levels.
Gaia addresses these inefficiencies with its revolutionary proprietary Nanobubble Technology. Users have reported up to 30% production increases depending on the crop and other factors.
Gaia Oxygenation Technology
Because Gaia systems are low pressure, they can be fed with either compressed oxygen in cylinders or through an oxygen generator. While oxygen generators have no ongoing operating costs other than electricity. The efficiency of the technology in its gas use, allows liquid oxygen to be a viable option with low upfront cost.
Gaia’s generated ultra-fine nanobubbles stay in solution for extended periods of time, more than enough to reach plant roots through any type of irrigation or hydroponic system. Our technology can also be very effective in aquaponic systems (See Aquaculture Applications).
In certain applications, depending on the health of the growing medium, Gaia incorporates beneficial microbes in its solutions to create optimal growing conditions. Gaia has established a working relationship with Pathway Biologics who analyze, customize, and supply microbial amendments. Gaia’s technology not only maximizes usable oxygen delivery to plant roots, but it encourages the introduced beneficial anaerobic bacteria to rapidly multiply and accelerate soil enhancement.
Gaia nanobubble technology has been approved by the State of California for use in Certified Organic operations and is being studied by the USDA and the Unversity of Florida for citrus applications.
Gaia products are currently widely deployed in Cannabis/Hemp Cultivation, Hydroponics, Aquaponics and Soil Remediation. Institutional testing is underway in numerous applications in difficult environments with promising early results.