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In Yuma, Ariz., where the soil on one research farm is akin to beach sand, the system is bearing some fruit.

Todd Fitchette, Associate Editor

June 29, 2022

2 Min Read
Ole Kristian Sivertsen demonstrates Desert Controls liquid natural clay product at a field day in Yuma, Arizona. The product is being tested in sandy soil by the University of Arizona for its ability to improve the water holding capacity for crops grown in sandy soils. Studies in Arizona and the United Arab Emirates suggest the patented process holds promise.Todd Fitchette

Extension researchers in Arizona and California are working with a Norwegian company to make marginal soils arable. In Yuma, Ariz., where the soil on one research farm is akin to beach sand, the system is bearing some fruit.

Robert Masson, Extension researcher with the University of Arizona who’s leading the Yuma project, says the “junkyard” soil of the mesa farm where Desert Control is studying its liquid natural clay (LNC) helps sandy soils hold water better.

Watermelons on the university farm were recently harvested and studied for their size and sugar content. Bell peppers were looked at for their marketability and signs of plant stress, Masson said.

Reated: Patented process converts sand to fertile soil

“We learned a lot about how plants take up water,” Masson said. “We have soil sensors throughout the whole field."

In the control plots without Desert Control’s LNC product, Masson said they could not put on enough water to avoid plant stress. This was particularly evident at stand establishment with the transplanted bell peppers, according to Masson.

Ole Kristian Sivertsen, president, and CEO of Desert Control, told an audience of growers who visited the Yuma plot that this is the first U.S. location to test the LNC. The company first commercialized the process in the United Arab Emirates and is now looking to do the same in the United States. Studies with the universities of Arizona and California look to validate the technology and replicate its successes.

Related: From 'junkyard' to just right: Sandy soil transformed

Sivertsen said the company spent four years independently validating the process in the UAE and is now looking to see if what they learned there is transferable to conditions in the United States. Still, Desert Control is looking at a five-year process to study the technology at Yuma, with similar plans to study it at the UA research facility in Maricopa, at UC Riverside, and at California State University, Fresno.

“We’re not necessarily going to need four or five years here to validate before we can make this available, because what we are looking for is, does this validate transferability of results that have been achieved in other locations,” he said.

Masson says the idea of improving the water-holding capabilities in certain soil types and “banking” this water for crop use, is intriguing and worthy of more study.

About the Author(s)

Todd Fitchette

Associate Editor, Western Farm Press

Todd Fitchette, associate editor with Western Farm Press, spent much of his journalism career covering agriculture in California and the western United States. Aside from reporting about issues related to farm production, environmental regulations and legislative matters, he has extensive experience covering the dairy industry, western water issues and politics. His journalistic experience includes local daily and weekly newspapers, where he was recognized early in his career as an award-winning news photographer.

Fitchette is US Army veteran and a graduate of California State University, Chico. 

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