Friday, August 22, 2014

Desalination

Desalination, also called desalinization, is the removal of salt from seawater to make available more freshwater for human consumption.  Since only a tiny percentage of water on Earth is freshwater, and most of this is locked in glaciers, some arid areas bordering oceans or salt lakes view desalination as a necessity.  Israel gets over a third of its drinking water from desalination, and the amount of drinking water obtained from desalination worldwide is expected to almost double by 2020.

Desalination is possible through three main mechanisms.  First, simple solar distillation of seawater uses the different boiling points of pure water and salt to separate the two.  Water boils (evaporates) at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, while NaCl (sodium chloride, or the main salt in the ocean) doesn't boil or evaporate until 2,575 degrees Fahrenheit.  Since the sun warming seawater can get some water molecules to evaporate at a temperature lower than 212 degrees, water is collected on a clear plastic or glass pane.  This pane is sloped, and the pure water drains downward into a trough, awaiting drinking.

A picture of a solar still - From USGS
Solar distillation or desalination clearly does not produce a great deal of fresh water quickly, so other more expensive but more productive methods were developed.

Vacuum distillation decreases the pressure in a container of seawater to near that of atmospheric pressure.  This causes the pure water to boil at a lower temperature, allowing it to be separated from the salt (which is very difficult to boil as noted above).  This pure water is again separated and collected.  See how vacuum distillation works in the video below.



The most recently developed method is reverse osmosis, where seawater is pumped at very high pressures through a semi-permeable membrane (which only allows water through).  The salt remains.  This method is generally cheaper than vacuum distillation.  The biggest desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere is now being built outside San Diego.  See how reverse osmosis works in a video from OceanIt below.



Both vacuum distillation and reverse osmosis use electricity, making them both expensive and polluting.  They also leave an unwanted byproduct of very salty water which must be discarded.  If this brine water is just mixed in with ocean water again, many animals in the area of the brine will die.  Also, the costs of desalination preclude it from being used for any purpose beside drinking and cooking water.  Irrigation would clearly be far too low value a purpose for this water.

So, if desert countries do increasingly come to rely on desalination for drinking water, how can they grow trees and other plants for food production - especially since desalination is expensive?  The answer is - they can use the Groasis Waterboxx.

The Groasis Waterboxx doesn't use salt water at all, but rare rainwater and condensation to grow plants.  Unlike most types of desalination, it doesn't use electricity and doesn't have any moving parts.  A tree or other plant is planted with the Waterboxx, water is poured around the tree, the Waterboxx is filled with water, and the grower's job is done.  The Waterboxx will maintain its water supply from condensation and refill completely with 4 inches of rain.  See a video of how the Waterboxx works below (from Groasis):



The Groasis Waterboxx allows trees and other plants to be planted in deserts and other very dry areas with high survival rates.  88-99% of trees planted in a Sahara planting trial survived using the Waterboxx, versus only 10% that survived without the Waterboxx but with weekly irrigation.

The Waterboxx has been used throughout the world, and Dew Harvest is now distributing the Waterboxx within the United States.  The Waterboxx allows land owners and gardeners to plant all types of trees and many different garden plants.  We document our success with pear, cherry, oak, and sequoia trees as well as cantaloupe and pumpkins elsewhere on this site (click the respective plant for links).  Be the first to in your area to start growing with the Groasis Waterboxx.  Buy the Waterboxx here.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Where is Earth's Fresh Water Stored?



The Stephens Glacier - From USGS: Glaciers hold about two thirds of all the world's fresh water
Most people know that most of the Earth's water is salt water in the oceans (almost 97% in fact).  Many people assume that fresh water is mostly found in rivers and lakes.  This is not the case.  Two thirds of all fresh water is in glaciers and ice, not readily accessible for human use.  As we see many glaciers in the northern hemisphere recede (even while they may be getting thicker in Antarctica), some of this ice may become available in fresh water lakes, but right now it is largely inaccessible.

Of all fresh water, 0.26% (or one quarter of one percent) are in fresh water lakes.  Over eighty percent of  all the fresh water in North American Lakes is in the Great Lakes region. (Incidentally, these lakes were formed by glacial melt after the last ice age, so glacial melt today could potentially have similar effects).. So, there is not much available to the Western part of the United States that most needs the water for irrigation and other uses.

What about rivers?  Well, all the rivers in the world only hold 0.006% (that is six hundredths of one percent) of all water.  We frequently use rivers to irrigate crops, but their main advantage is that they are self refilling, not that they hold significant water.  If fact, we use so much of the water from the Colorado river that it doesn't even reach the sea anymore.


The Colorado River drying out before it reaches the sea - from USGS
With drought becoming more prevalent, and ground aquifers becoming depleted, isn't there another renewable source of water that could be tapped to grow plants?  Yes, there is.  0.04% of all fresh water is held by the atmosphere.  This is over six times what is available in rivers.  The problem, up until now, has been there was no effective way to harvest and store this water for use by growing plants.  The Groasis Waterboxx has changed all of that.

The Groasis Waterboxx is a self refilling water battery, an ingeniously designed dew harvesting device that pulls moisture from the air at night, and stores it to slowly distribute to the roots of a growing plant.  It also captures rainfall and stores this for later use.  See how the Waterboxx works in the video below:


The Groasis Waterboxx pulls water from the air, funnels it to a reservoir using its unique lotus leaf inspired lid,  and slowly distributes it to the soil beneath.  This allows the tree roots to grow to deeper capillary water (also called soil moisture, where another 0.05% of all fresh water is stored), making them drought resistant once the Waterboxx is removed and reused.  See the root growth with the Groasis Waterboxx at this link.  Contrast this to what is normally done when planting a young tree - drip or sprinkler irrigation means water stays in the top of the root zone, causing the roots to grow more shallowly and making them more likely to dry out during drought.  The Groasis Waterboxx has suddenly made this atmospheric fresh water, squeezed out in condensation most mornings, available for the growth of the plant.

We at Dew Harvest have used the Waterboxx to grow cherry, pear, oak, and sequoia trees, as well as annuals like pumpkins and cantaloupe.  Be the first in your area to begin planting trees the way nature intended with the Groasis Waterboxx.  Buy the Waterboxx today.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Growing Cantaloupe with the Groasis Waterboxx

The Groasis Waterboxx was developed to grow trees in very dry areas without irrigation or other continued watering.  For this purpose, it is superb, with 88-99% survival during a Sahara desert planting trial.   The Waterboxx has been less well known until recently as a way to plant fruits and vegetables, especially vine crops, without any continued Watering.  We had had very dry summers here in Indiana recently so we wanted to test by planting pumpkins and cantaloupes with the Waterboxx.  It is also best to start seeds of a new plant outside the Waterboxx to ensure the most light initially.  We planted several cantaloupe seeds in a peat pot, and transplanted these into the ground.  We placed the Waterboxx over this new cantaloupe, and filled the Waterboxx as well as pouring about one gallon of water down the central opening of the Waterboxx.  Below you can see the cantaloupe on July 28, 2014.



It was a cold spring here in Indiana (as well as a remarkably cool summer) and we may have gotten the cantaloupe in the ground late, but we saw good growth within a few days of the leaves of the cantaloupe reaching the top of the Waterboxx.  Below you see the Waterboxx on August 2, 2014.

The cantaloupe continues to grow very well now.  The Waterboxx usually has one wick, releasing approximately 50 mL (10 teaspoons) of water daily to the roots of the growing plant.  We inserted a second wick after drilling a 3/16 inch hole opposite the original wick hole.  This has given the cantaloupe roots more water, and with our amount of rainfall in Indiana, the Waterboxx has stayed completely full.  In drier climates, a second wick may mean the Waterboxx would need to be refilled.

Below you see the cantaloupe on August 16,2014, with several small yellow blooms.



The Groasis Waterboxx allows a means to grow plants in very dry areas.  Areas where cantaloupes are traditionally grown (like Southwest Texas) have very irregular rainfall, but the Waterboxx can counteract this by providing daily moisture to the plant.  The Waterboxx has also been used to grow many other plants, including pear and cherry trees, oakssequoias and pumpkins.   You can buy the Waterboxx here from Dew Harvest.  We will continue to update this post with the progress of our cantaloupe planting.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Ocean Acidification and the Groasis Waterboxx


There is much controversy over whether human carbon dioxide emissions cause global warming.  Warming has come in fits and starts, and the warmest summer in years in 2012, has been followed by one of the coolest this year.  Global warming predictions are based on computer models, and are not readily falsifiable (a hallmark of all other scientific inquiry).  Also, both scientists and governments stand to gain power and money (through research dollars and carbon taxes) should the belief in global warming become more widespread.  The French philosopher Voltaire once said "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him".  Perhaps, for those in power, the same is true of global warming.  Thus, anthrogenic (man caused) global warming is controversial.

What is not controversial is this.  Carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere is increasing.  We have objectively chronicled this rise over the past decades.  We know this is from human activity, releasing millenia of stored carbon in coal, oil, and natural gas into the atmosphere.   Below you can see the slow but steady increase carbon dioxide levels as measured at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.  

Mauna Loa CO2
From NOAA
So, carbon dioxide increase is easily and objectively measured and uncontroversial.  Why does this matter if global warming is unproven?  Because rising carbon dioxide has other negative effects.  First, rising carbon dioxide can raise the acidity of the oceans.  We are observing this happening right now.  When carbon dioxide comes in to contact with water, it frequently forms a chemical reaction by which a hydrogen ion (or proton) is released.  The equation is shown below.


Seawater carbonate chemistry
Also from NOAA
This loose hydrogen ion is actually what makes things acidic.  The scientific abbreviation pH even stands for "power of hydrogen".  The exact same process happens in the body, which is why you will see people with certain conditions (like diabetic ketoacidosis) breathing very fast in order to decrease acidity of blood.

For most of recent history, the oceans have been slightly basic.  However, with increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the above chemical reaction is happening more and more, and the ocean is becoming more acidic.  It is believed that the ocean absorbs 30-40% of all carbon dioxide, and that the acidity of the oceans has increased 30% as well. This can have negative counsequences for the many ocean creatures that pull other chemicals out of water, as detailed in the video below.  



This ocean acidification also is slowing the growth of other organisms that pull calcium out of the water, like coral.  If these grow more slowly, the entire ocean food chain may be adversely affected, meaning fewer fish and fewer marine mammals.  The economic cost alone, not to mention the ecologic cost, would be very large should this process continue unabated.

Most of the proposed solutions to increasing atmospheric carbon aren't solutions at all, but draconian restrictions on affordable energy and unrealistic targets for emission reduction.  Such policies are so bad economically that Europe, previously a leader in decreasing carbon emissions, has reversed itself and now loosened its emission guidelines.  The same is happening in Japan.  Clearly, decreasing emissions is not a viable solution currently.

If you look at the graph at the top of this post (carbon in the atmosphere), you will see that it actually is saw toothed in shape.  This is due to seasonal variation, or the decrease in carbon dioxide in the air during summer because of uptake from plants undergoing photosynthesis.  Plants pull carbon from the air, use it during photosynthesis, and store it in sugars and wood (cellulose), potentially long term.  If we planted enough trees, even if we then harvested these trees for timber, we could dramatically reduce or even stop the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  This would slow or stop ocean acidification, in addition to making moot the debate about global warming.

How can plant more trees?  Isn't most land with enough moisture to grow trees already growing crops for food?  This was the case, there way little more arable land, until the invention of the Groasis Waterboxx.

The Groasis Waterboxx was invented to plant trees and other plants in very dry areas without irrigation.  The Groasis Waterboxx collects dew and rain water using its lotus leaf inspired lid.  This water is stored in a reservoir, and slowly released through a wick to the roots of a growing plant.  This allows the plant (usually a tree), to develop deep roots that reach underground capillary water.  When the tree reaches this water, it is drought resistant and the Waterboxx can be removed and reused.


The Groasis Waterboxx
Dew Harvest was founded because we saw the value of the Waterboxx, and were upset that it was not more widely used in the United States.  We began selling the Waterboxx, and you can buy the Waterboxx at our website.  We truly believe that trees are the solution to many of the world's ills, including increasing carbon in the atmosphere and ocean acidification.  Be the first in your area to start growing trees with the Waterboxx.


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Fruit Trees for a Mediterranean Climate

The area around the Mediterranean Sea has been the cradle of Western Civilization for thousands of years, playing a profound effect throughout history.  Less well known is the influence of this area on agriculture.  Many of our fruit trees either originated in this basin or became well adapted to it.  Here we will discuss which fruit trees grow well in this type of climate, and how the Groasis Waterboxx can aid in their growth.

The Mediterranean Climate, or dry summer subtropical climate areas, have warm summers, mild winters, and rarely have temperatures below freezing.  Only a few areas of the world (in California, the original Mediterranean basin, Chile, and Australia) are blessed with this climate.  This climate can prove challenging for growing fruits, however, because of the lack of rainfall during the main growth phase of many fruits.  Also, establishing trees in the Mediterranean climate is extremely difficult due to this dry summer - new trees must be irrigated or must obtain water from another source - like the Groasis Waterboxx.
From Wikipedia
The Groasis Waterboxx is a rain and dew harvesting device that, once assembled and put in place, saves the gardener from watering the tree ever again.  The Waterboxx can be removed and reused for up to ten years and ten different trees.  The Waterboxx uses its lotus leaf inspired lid to channel water to the roots of a growing plant, while keeping several (four) gallons of water in reserve for the dry summers of the Mediterranean climate area.

The Groasis Waterboxx


Which fruit trees grow and produce fruit well in the Mediterranean climate? Pomegranate, Fig, Loquot, Mandarin, and Lemon are all excellent trees for this region.   Several of these fruits are less well know in the U.S. but all are known by horticulturalists to be well suited to dry summers and mild winters.  Some of these trees actually produce winter crops - a great boon to those who want year round fresh fruit.

One of the great virtues of the Mediterranean climate is its ability to produce fruits year round.  Below you will see trees grouped by when their fruit is harvested.

Late Summer and Early Fall Bearing Fruit Trees

Pomegranate - Punica granatum

To the author (who was raised in the Midwest), pomegranate fruit looks otherworldly, but tastes heavenly.  Pomegranates make excellent juices and add flavor to smoothies.
The pomegranate tree is native to Iran and has been planted extensively around the world.  It requires a long hot summer to mature, meaning Mediterranean climate areas are ideal.  You will want to buy soft seeded fruit trees if planning to eat the fruit whole, but hard seeded fruit if primarily desired for juicing.  Pomegranate trees can be bought here.


From this site which suggests the pomegranate (native to the Middle East) not the apple was the real forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden.  

Fig - Ficus carica
Figs are well known in the U.S. in their dried form but few people has tasted fresh figs.  These trees do well in a Mediterranean climate (with long, hot dry summers) and will thrive immediately after planting with the water provided by the Groasis Waterboxx.  It is important to buy the common fig type of tree, as it doesn't need to be fertilized by wasps like the Smyrna fig.   The fig tree can produce two fruits a year but the second (in late summer) is the primary crop. Common figs trees can be purchased here

From Fruitipedia

Late Winter and Early Spring Harvesting Fruit Trees

Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) 
This little known fruit actually comes from southern China.  It is evergreen although its leaves look deciduous.  It blooms in late fall and produces fruit in late winter or early spring.  The fruits are usually eaten alone but are sometimes used in other recipes.  The fruit tastes like a mix between peach and mango, and the flowers themselves are quite fragrant.  There are a few self-fertile varieties ('Gold Nugget' and 'Mogi') but two should be planted within pollination distance for maximum yield.  Loquats can be used in any recipe that is intended for peaches or apricots (or other stone fruit). Trees for fruit production (grafted specimens) can be purchased here.


From Wikipedia
Mandarin (orange) - Citrus reticulatae

This tree, also from Asia originally, is well known for its popular fruit, sold canned in heavy syrup.  A healthier fruit can be grown in the Mediterranean Climate using the Waterboxx and eaten fresh.  This tree is also deciduous but evergreen.  This tree requires deep watering that can be accomplished with a once to twice weekly, or with the Waterboxx at planting.  Mandarin trees can be purchased here.
A mature mandarin tree (image from this fellow blogspot site)

A Tree for Harvesting All Year

Lemon Tree - Citrus limon
This tree is very cold sensitive, and will not survive frosts, but can produce fruit year round.  These fruits are very versatile, with the juice and rind being used in cooking.  This tree will do well when planted on the south side of buildings with the Waterboxx.  The Waterboxx can be removed before the tree outgrows it.  Lemon trees can be purchased here.

The Groasis Waterboxx allows trees to be planted in any season, and become established without regular rainfall or any irrigation.  The Waterboxx collects dew and rainwater, slowly channeling it to the roots of a growing plant.  The Waterboxx also prevents evaporation of this moisture from the root zone of a growing tree, and can then be removed and reused up to ten times.  Be the first in your area to begin growing fruit with the Groasis Waterboxx.  Buy the Waterboxx here.

Our Sources Not Linked Above:

http://www.greenfingers.com.au/services/digging_deeper/fruits_and_nuts.html

https://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/proceedings1996/v3-416.html

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Growing Dwarf Cherry Trees (without watering) and with the Groasis Waterboxx

Last year, the author decided to plant a dwarf cherry tree purchased from Stark Brothers nursery online.  The tree, a Blackgold® Sweet Cherry Semi-Dwarf, barely grew over the first year (without a Waterboxx).  We watered the trees consistently from a hose during 2013.  We were very disappointed with this and the tree at the end of its first winter (late February) is shown below.

Below you see the cherry tree after the Waterboxx was placed (on April 27) , with a little bit of leaf growth.  There was a late spring this year after a bitterly cold winter, and we haven't yet seen much growth.

Below we see the tree only three weeks later (May 18) with approximate doubling in canopy size.  This is largely due to the consistent water provided by the Groasis Waterboxx.


In the interim between the above and below pictures, we had some animal (we believe a rabbit) eat bark from around 80% of the trunk.  We repaired this the best we could and added a GrowSafe® Telescoprotexx (tree protector) that allows sunlight to reach the small tree but protects it from animals.  The tree below is shown on July 22, 2014.  The canopy size is again almost doubled, and now the tree is in danger of getting so large so quickly that we may have trouble removing the Waterboxx.


The Groasis Waterboxx was designed to grow trees in deserts, but even in relatively wet climates (like ours in Indiana) it dramatically increases tree growth because the Waterboxx allows for constant irrigation to the roots.  The Waterboxx collects near nightly dew and occasional rainwater, and stores this water in a 4 gallon reservoir, and slowly releases this to the roots of the growing plant in its center.  The Waterboxx is removed after about one year (before the tree canopy gets too large to permit the central Waterboxx opening around it) and is reused for up to 10 years.  The Waterboxx planted tree then has deeply developed roots, which access capillary water and provide drought resistance to the tree.

We will continue to update this page with more photos throughout the year.  We expect our first cherry crop next year thanks to the Waterboxx.

Be the first in your area to begin planting trees with the Waterboxx.  Not only does the Waterboxx save time and conserve water, but it also saves money on planting trees when all costs are considered.  Buy the Waterboxx here.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Growing Dwarf Pear Trees (without watering) and with the Groasis Waterboxx

Last spring, the author bought and planted 4 bare root dwarf fruit trees purchased from Stark Brothers nursery (online).  The site for these trees was carefully selected to be in a full sun area at the bottom of a hill where water would reach them.  All of these trees are capable of growing well in the zone in which they were planted (Zone 6) After this first year, we were quite disappointed with the lack of significant growth of these trees, so we decided to add the Waterboxx to each of their bases.  The tree we will discuss here is a pear tree, the Custom 2-N-1 Pear Semi-Dwarf.   The tree pre-Waterboxx (in late winter) shown below looks very similar to the tree when was planted (showing the very minimal and disappointing growth first year).

The pear tree (before Waterboxx placement) on 2/22/14, approximately one year after planting
We had planted in spring a year before the above picture, and there was almost no growth.  Below you see the first leave growth with Waterboxx in place.



The pear on 4/27/14 after first bud break (it was a late Spring)
Within a few weeks the Waterboxx planted tree had acquired many leaves.  There is a small amount of new growth (seen by the light greenish yellow leaves at the top of the branches) below.
The growth three weeks later (5/18/14) is significant
The 5 weeks after the above photograph are when the Waterboxx really induced spectacular growth.  The tree increased in height ~50% in a little over a month.  Remember, we did not add any water to the base of the tree or to the Waterboxx.
The pear tree 5 weeks later (6/30/14) as almost doubled in height with the Waterboxx providing consistent water.
We will continue to update you on the tree's progress throughout the summer.  At this rate of growth, we expect the tree to outgrow the Waterboxx by this fall, and we will remove the Waterboxx next spring (after it helps protect the base of the tree through the winter).

For those not familiar with the Waterboxx, it works in several ways, described in detail elsewhere on this site.  In essence, however, it is a self recharging "water battery".  It collects dew and rainwater from the environment, funnels this into the green basin using its lotus leaf inspired lid, and then slowly releases this water to the roots of the growing plant.  The plant's roots grow straight down within the Waterboxx induced water column until they reach deeper capillary water.  At this point (when the tree exhibits a growth spurt, the Waterboxx can be removed and replaced with mulch.  The deeply rooted tree is now resistant to any further drought as it now has this deep root which has access to ground capillary water. Be the first in your area to start growing plants with the Groasis Waterboxx.  Buy the Groasis Waterboxx here.