Ida Ore’s Clinoptilolite Zeolite has been approved for organic production by the Idaho Department of Agriculture (#14-858) as a crop fertilizer, soil amendment, and livestock feed ingredient. Zeolite is used in numerous industries for its combination of CEC values and sieving capabilities. Zeolite’s framework consists of open channels, tunnels, and cavities where cations and water molecules are located. The channeled structure of Zeolite is responsible for their function as a molecular sieve but is also important for ‘selective’ cation exchange.
Zeolite as a Soil Amendment
Zeolite can increase plant utilization of both Nitrogen and Potassium by up to 30% while enhancing plant uptake of water and nutrients by reducing nutrient leaching beyond the reach of the root system. Zeolite holds the nitrogen from ammonium and other nutrients in the honeycomb structure where they are not water soluble but are plant accessible on an as-needed and time-release basis. As discussed, Zeolite has a high affinity for the ammonium ion, is a plant usable form of nitrogen.
Benefits of tilling Zeolite into the root system of crops include a decreased need for water by up to 30%, especially on sloped hillsides. Zeolite’s distinguished properties on Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC), free structural water storage and surface adsorption increase the soils ability to retain water within the root zone, holding it there longer for the plant to utilize before it evaporates or goes down beyond the reach of the plant. Zeolite has numerous advantages in the area of water conservation and nutrient leaching.
- Zeolite is capable of holding up to 60% of its weight in water
- Tests have shown Zeolite can increase water infiltration by 7%-30% on gently sloped land and up to 50% on steeply sloped land
- Soil moisture can be increased by 0.4%-1.8% in drought conditions and 5%-15% in general water situations
- Consequently, overland surface runoff is reduced, in turn protecting lands from erosion
- Use of soluble N fertilizers is a major cause for groundwater contamination. Zeolite reduces nitrate leaching by inhibiting the nitrification of ammonium to nitrate
Zeolite in Compost
Zeolite has two methods of holding cations such as ammonium and plant nutrients:
- Absorption into the porous matrix
- Adsorption by Cation Exchange (CEC)
Much of the Nitrogen entering a farm as animal feed ends up as ammonium in manure, which is either volatilized as noxious ammonia causing odors and GHGs, or it can be leached as nitrate. Zeolite captures this nitrogen. Environmentally, this improves the fertilizer efficiency of manure compost, as well as reduces nitrate leaching by inhibiting the nitrification of ammonium. Economically, Zeolite is conservatively capable of holding 4.3% by volume of Nitrogen, and 5.7% by volume of potassium and will become bound and ready to be released though plant mineralization onto pastures and crops while adding value. Based on values given by Magic Valley Compost in Jerome, ID and shown percentages from university research, Ida Ore can apply for the following economic benefits when blending Zeolite into compost.
The bound nitrogen has the capability to triple the number of nutrients actually being used by the plant instead of lost to volatilization and leaching. This affinity to nutrients can add significant amounts of nitrogen and potassium to soils. It should also be noted that nitrogen cannot be sequestered like carbon can, so reducing the emissions of nitrous oxide can play a large role in agricultural soil management.