TerraCottem for erosion control of sandy soils all over the world


Photo credit: WVC

Erosion control of sandy soil by appying TerraCottem soil conditioner in the Antwerp harbour area

by Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem (Ghent University, Belgium)


With the purpose of creating a new dock in the vicinity of Antwerp (Belgium), a large area was covered with sandy bottom sediments of the river Schelde, excavated by dredging. As these newly formed sandy soils are mostly nutrient deficient, it is extremely difficult to cover them with a vegetation layer to control wind erosion.  Their fertility and water retention capacity is generally too low, so that seeding with traditional grass species is mostly inefficient.  Even if these grasses germinate after some good rains, the young plants perish because the sand is unable to retain sufficient moisture and nutrients.

As a result of this drought and nutrient poverty, the young grasses will soon dry, which automatically leads to erosion, particularly in between the seeding lines of the grasses (see picture above).

In order to sustain an efficient vegetation layer on newly formed sandy soils, one has to condition those soils to improve their water retention capacity and fertility.  Thats’s where the soil conditioning technology TerraCottem (www.terracotten.com) plays an important role.

The TerraCottem soil conditioners are a proprietary mixture of more than twenty components each from different groups all assisting in the plant growth processes in a synergetic way (see: http://www.terracottem.com/terracottem-soil-conditioning-technology):

  • The growth precursors play a very important role in the initial growth phase of the plant. They activate root cell elongation and differentiation, and promote leaf development and biomass production.  In addition, roots are encouraged to grow more rapidly to depths where more water is present.
  • The cross-linked hydroabsorbent polymers absorb and store water that is normally lost to evaporation and leaching, reducing the volume and frequency of necessary irrigation by up to 50%.  This water is then kept at the disposal of the plant that accesses the stored water on demand through its root hairs, keeping the water in the root zone for a longer period of time.
  • The specially selected fertilizers provide balanced nutrition to the plants based upon macro and microelements.
  • TerraCottem’s carrier materials are selected for their chemo-physical properties (CEC, WRC, etc.) and their characteristics which allow homogeneous distribution of all components.

In view of an optimal development of a grass layer (turf), TerraCottem Turf has been developed. “Based on the TerraCottem principle, it contains zeolite, a 100 percent natural volcanic mineral that helps increase soil fertility and water retention.  The product’s benefits are further boosted by the inclusion of turf specific fertilizers and humic acids which have a positive effect on water retention capacity, soil structure and microbiological activity.   All this, to get quicker grass establishment, enhanced root and plant growth and improve the quality of turf, seeded grass and sprigs.”

At the start of our experiment in the Antwerp harbour area, the yellow sandy surface was completely barren and wind erosion was dramatic.  The experimental perimeter was divided into two parts:

(1) Left side of the photo above: The untreated part where a mixture of traditional grasses was directly sown in the sandy soil.

(2) Right on the photo: The TerraCottem-treated part (100 g per square meter, to a depth of 30 cm).

Thanks to some good rains, the grasses of the untreated part germinated and developed into a vegetation layer in which the seeding lines remained visible weeks after the start of the experiment.  During windy periods, sand grains were blown out from these uncovered parts between the grass lines.  Wind erosion and drought effect continued and finally the grasses died (see brown grasses in the picture).

Due to the improved water retention capacity and the higher fertility at the TerraCottem-treated part, the grasses developed soon into a closed turf layer, where wind erosion was totally reduced (see green “pasture” at the right hand side of the picture).

This experiment showed clearly that the soil conditioner TerraCottem is an excellent tool in the combat of erosion.  It deserves to be applied at the largest scale in the combat of desertification and all the applications to mitigate drought.




The need for a participatory approach to water management and development interventions that also includes women.


Photo credit: CGIAR

A woman participating to an irrigation project in Zimbabwe. Photo credit: UN Photo/Milton Grant

Publication Review: Gender Dynamics in Water Governance Institutions in Zimbabwe

Submitted by Martina Antonucci

In Zimbabwe, the decentralization of water management in irrigation schemes may be an opportunity for rural communities to actively participate in and contribute to the management of their development process. In this context, the GCIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems emphasises the need for a participatory approach to water management and development interventions that also includes women. The recent study “Gender Dynamics in Water Governance Institutions: The Case of Gwanda’s Guyu-Chelesa Irrigation Scheme in Zimbabwe” gives an example of the challenges encountered by women who are involved in irrigation schemes management.

Through documentary research, interviews, questionnaires and non-obtrusive observation the authors of the article investigated women’s involvement in the water governance intervention of the Guyu-Chelesa Irrigation Scheme in Zimbabwe. Guyu-Chelesa is a farmer-managed irrigation scheme located in the Mzingwane Catchment, which is part of the Limpopo River Basin in Matabeleland South Province. The majority of farmers in this area are women, representing approximately 75% of the labourers. Women are the major users of water, as they not only irrigate the fields, but also perform the maintenance of irrigation infrastructures, investing significant time and efforts into it.

This important participation of women in irrigation farming is reflected in their high involvement in the Water Users Associations. Despite this, gender inequality still strongly exists at the committee level of the institutions where the percentage of women, although high, is still not proportional to the number of women conducting irrigation farming, and their decision-making power is significantly limited.

The authors report that although women participate in meetings more consistently than men, their voice is generally not heard or barely accepted. For example, women’s ideas about management and rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructures are recognized only when the complexity of the issue is minimal. For the rest of the discussions, only men have the power to make binding decisions, while women are only given the possibility to reinforce them.

Read the full article: CGIAR

People have resorted to use burning wood or other biomass for heat instead of using fossil fuels.


Photo credit: AZO Cleantech


Scientists Find Greener Way to Generate Heat using Biomass

Written by AZoCleantech

Woodstoves and campfires have long been used to warm people up in cold weather. Recently, people have resorted to use burning wood or other biomass for heat instead of using fossil fuels.

Scientists have recently reported a greener technique to generate heat using biomass. Instead of burning biomass, researchers allowed fungi to break them down to discharge heat. This research wok has been published in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering.

One of the main advantages of using biomass is that it comprises of animal waste and plant materials that are abundantly available. It is produced in large quantities as a waste product from agricultural and paper industries. Since burning biomass emits volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other fine particles that lead to environmental and health problems, scientists have been trying to find techniques to utilize biomass with minimal emission levels.

One technique involves addition of microorganisms that possess the ability to degrade the materials. In this technique, heat is discharged without emitting fine particles or VOCs. Until today, almost all of the investigations into this method were conducted in room-temperature conditions.

Read the full article: AZO Cleantech

“Green” Desalination


Photo credit: AZO Cleantech

This desalination plant in Israel, called Sorek, is currently the world’s largest, producing 625,000 cubic meters of fresh water per day. Boris Liberman, chief technology officer of IDE Technologies, the company that built this and several other huge desalination plants in Israel and California, was among the speakers at MIT’s Low Carbon Desalination Workshop, which explored the potential for reducing the carbon footprint of such facilities. (Photo courtesy IDE Technologies)

Experts Gather at MIT to Prepare Roadmap for “Green” Desalination

Written by AZoCleantech

Considered one of the most significant turnarounds ever accomplished in relation to a natural resource emergency, Israel has overcome a threatening fresh water scarcity within a decade.

Currently, the country has such a large water surplus it exports large quantities to its parched neighboring countries. The turnaround was achieved with the construction of the largest desalination plants in the world. The desalination plants convert the Mediterranean seawater into potable water for both domestic purposes as well as agriculture.

Although this excess water is an important example for countries around the world that are dealing with water shortages, it also has an environmental impact: Desalination plants consume a lot of energy, the production of which would require fossil fuels to be burnt in large power plants.

To solve that issue and prepare a roadmap for future research and demonstrations, some of the world’s leading experts in the technology, regulatory issues involving desalination, and economics recently gathered at MIT.

They talked about a way to remove the salt from seawater or brackish aquifers at all scales, from small, local installations to the large megaprojects as seen in Israel, while reducing or eliminating the related greenhouse gas emissions.

Read the full article: AZO Cleantech

L’utilisation des ressources naturelles au Sahel et en Afrique de l’Ouest



Conventions locales de gestion des ressources naturelles: schema pastoral au sud du Mali


En Afrique de l’Ouest, comme dans la plupart des pays d’Afrique Sub-Sahélienne, les ressources naturelles constituent la base de la vie quotidienne des hommes, particulièrement pour les pauvres qui dans la majorité des cas vivent dans le milieu rural où leur moyens de subsistances dépendent presque exclusivement des activités agricoles et de l’élevage.

La production agricole et l’élevage caractérise essentiellement l’économie de la région et se situe au cœur de l’utilisation des ressources naturelles au Sahel et en Afrique de l’Ouest. De nombreux facteurs, tels que l’augmentation constante de la population et l’accroissement des troupeaux, ont pour conséquence l’apparition d’une pression croissante sur ces ressources.

Cette vidéo met en évidence une tentative réussie par ILRI et AMEDD pour arrêter ce problème dans le sud du Mali.

Read the full story: Africa Rising

A solution to address California’s prolonged period of drought.


Photo credit: Food Tank

Stanford’s study is particularly significant in light of the four-year drought the state of California has endured. – Shutterstock

A Solution to California’s Drought?

by Emma Marks

New research may have found a solution to address California’s prolonged period of drought. A study conducted by researchers at Stanford University suggests that California’s aquifers, underground areas where water collects, may have up to three times the amount of useable groundwater as previously estimated. The research estimates that the previously untapped deep groundwater source could hold up to 2,700 billion tons of freshwater under the state’s Central Valley.

Historically, deep groundwater aquifers have been developed for gas and oil extraction, rather than used as a viable water source. Stanford’s study, the first of its kind, calls for further research into the matter so that deep aquifers can be protected from further risk of contamination from oil and gas companies. Ironically, the initial data that formed the basis for the study was provided by the same companies that are at risk of contaminating it. The study found that nearly one-third of gas and oil wells in the state are drilled directly into a source of freshwater.

Read the full article: Food Tank

Climate, desertification, drought, rangeland management and overgrazing.



Rangeland management and climate hazards in drylands: dust storms, desertification and the overgrazing debate

by Nick Middleton

in Natural Hazards (2016). – doi:10.1007/s11069-016-2592-6



This paper examines the theory and supporting evidence for links between desertification, drought and dust storms with a particular focus on studies undertaken in and around the Gobi Desert.

Overgrazing of rangeland by pastoralists has been the most commonly cited cause of desertification in global drylands for more than 30 years, but the evidence supporting this link is not always convincing. Nonetheless, overgrazing, desertification and dust storms are frequently connected, regardless.

Drought is another well-known and important driver of vegetation cover change. Distinguishing between vegetation cover adversely affected by drought and that reduced by grazing is imperative for policy makers because identifying the incorrect driver of vegetation change risks the development of inappropriate policy.

Open Access Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s11069-016-2592-6