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Planting Technology Helps Revert Desertification

Updated on December 25, 2014

Planting Device that Helps Trees Grow in Dry Areas

Desertification has been one of the main dramatic challenges we have been faced as mankind in our modern times. It is a fast growing plague that renders soil infertile for our basic needs, which include food supply and CO2 conversion as well as other climate related issues.

Dutch inventor Pieter Hoff has developed a planting technology that can help solve the problem of desertification and hunger through the use of a planting device called the Groasis waterboxx, instrument that was introduced and is marketed by AquaPro Holland, a private company founded by Pieter Hoff himself.

"Groasis Waterboxx" Winner of Multiple Science Awards

  • Dutch Bèta Dragons Science Award 2008Given by the Platform Bèta Techniek in cooperation with the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs for best contribution to ecological, climate and poverty issues.
  • Top 10 inventions by Popular Science America’s biggest science magazine (three million readers).

In November 2010, Popular Science organized the 4th Annual election of the 'Best of What´s New' innovation. This competition included 117 fantastic products of Fortune 500 companies - including the iPad from Apple, and the Ledlamp from Philips. The Groasis waterboxx won the:

  • Green Tech Award in the Sustainable Inventions category and
  • Best of What is New 2010award.

Introduction to Waterboxx

The Groasis waterboxx is an instrument that supports plants and trees to grow and survive in difficult circumstances without using groundwater or electricity.

This planting device is a box that collects water by catching rainwater, and also by producing it through condensation. The waterbox subsequently distributes the water reservoir to the plant growing inside of it, supplying water over an extended period of time, in small quantities and on a daily basis.

As an example of the great efficiency of this new Groasis technology we have that, using the waterboxx, it is possible to grow vegetables with 80% less water consumption.

Furthermore, the Groasis waterboxx has important technological characteristics that enable the plant to grow in arid environments:

  • it stimulates the capillary formation of the soil,
  • prevents groundwater evaporation: through an ingenious system, the water can get Into the box, but it cannot get out of the box through evaporation,
  • creates an ideal oxygen level in the soil for optimal plant growth,
  • steadies the temperature in the surface of the soil and around the roots,
  • fights competitive weeds near the planted tree, and
  • averts grazing-damage by rodents.

In this way, the waterboxx stimulates optimal growth of the young tree and can play an important role in:

  • The reforestation of burned/demolished forests,
  • The collection of CO2,
  • In mitigating erosion,
  • In anti-desertification/reforestation programs, and
  • In the production of food and wood.

Capillary Columns / Water

In the soil there are millions of vertical channels that make a water transport system called "capillary”. Whenever there is a downpour, excess water runs underground through these capillary tube system. When it is dry, these same tubes transport water to the surface.

Trees have their roots in these capillary tubes -which also contain threads of fungi that are hygroscopic (they attract water)- and, through their lateral roots, they soak up capillary water when it is hot and dry.

This is how a tree survives heat and drought. Even in rocks, minuscule and invisible fissures function as capillary tubes.

Research Study Results

The University of Valladolid (UVA) in Spain is doing a 5 year research called “The Green Deserts”, which started in 2011. It includes 16,000 trees planted with their corresponding waterboxx and a 10% control group without boxes.

The trees planted with the Groasis waterboxx have had a survival rate of 90% while the control group only 14%.

The project is financed by the European Community with one million euros, which serves to show the great relevance of the desertification issue.

How Waterboxx Works

The Groasis waterboxx is a copy of Mother Nature:

Mother Nature doesn´t plant seeds digging up a hole and burying it under a pile of dirt, it sows (through birds or grazing animals) on top of the soil.

In nature, manure acts as a cover that prevents evaporation of the "capillary" or underground water transport system (see capillary columns / water box on the right for reference), protecting the seed until it develops a primary root and reaches an underground source of water.

Once water is found, the root system and the above-ground part of the plant grows and develops leaves, at which point condensation and photosynthesis can start.

This technique works and it's the reason why trees grow even in the Rocky Mountains or on the Alps, which consist of granite stones that can be broken through by the primary root of a plant or tree.

So trees growing on rocks or in deserts is not the problem, planting and germinating - helping the tree through the hard initial period until it gets its water supply from the capillary - is. That is the key difficulty that Groasis waterboxx solves. It is therefore, just like nature, a simple yet sophisticated planting concept.

In natural circumstances, the main carrier of spreading seed is the manure of grazing animals or birds, and the waterboxx itself provides the same cover/protection as manure does in nature:

  • it covers the soil to allow the development of a primary root in a capillary water column and
  • it moderates the temperature of the soil, preventing any extremes.

At the same time, the water in the box absorbs heat during the daytime, in this way cooling the duct (the center of the Groasis waterboxx that is open on the bottom and top side where the plant develops) and gives heat to the same duct during the night. The duct also protects against fierce sun or dry winds and, with all these aspects, it creates a small friendly microclimate for the growing tree.

As soon as the root has found the capillary water, usually after 6 to 12 months, we take away the box (as happens in nature where the manure, after it has done its function, will be eaten by microorganisms) and the tree grows on its own.

See How the Waterboxx Looks Like and How it Works

Saving the Planet through Reforestation

CO2: a gift from heaven: The blue CO2 booklet
CO2: a gift from heaven: The blue CO2 booklet

This book by Pieter Hoff explains that if we reforest the 5 billion acres of once forested but now eroded land, we make money while we help solve the 7 world problems that mankind faces: food, erosion, sinking ground water levels, the rural to urban migration disaster, unemployment, biodiversity destruction through cutting and the over concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere.


Additional Advantages of The Waterboxx

When using the waterboxx, the seed is planted just below the surface of the soil, so that the capillary soil stays intact and is not destroyed by digging a deep planting hole.

In addition, thanks to the waterboxx planting technology, which allows planting on the soil, it is now also possible to plant trees on rocks.

On the other hand, traditional irrigation cannot be applied on mountain slopes, but the waterboxx does work effectively in this environment also, enabling planting and reforestation where it was not possible before.

Waterboxx General Goals

  • Replant man-made deserts or eroded areas, including rocky terrain and slopes.
  • Restore the vegetation cover of the Earth, making it productive with trees for fruit and wood, vegetables, and bushes with seeds and berries for both man and wildlife.

The Growth Cycle that Waterboxx Promotes

If we supply the required amount of water during the early stages– when a tree is still young and its roots have not grown deep enough to reach capillary water – then trees can grow virtually anywhere, including arid areas.

In addition, we know that a forest creates by itself the right conditions to stimulate and aid further growth.

Trees create a different and unique microclimate wherever they grow by providing shade for other plants, and attracting animals that distribute seeds as part of their natural ecologic contribution. This in turn makes the soil richer, looser and thus better for further plant development. In the end, soil receives plenty of organic matter which makes it better able to hold water and nutrients. In this fashion, an environment is slowly formed, in which many different plants and microscopic species can grow.

In the past, nature has always done this without our help - changing bare rock into rich soil. Today, this is something that can be done again in areas that have been wrongfully used and destroyed by men. With the massive use of the Groasis waterboxx, promoted by governments around the world, healthy ecosystems can be restored and the Earth would be little by little brought back to life again.

The Science and Research Behind the Waterboxx Explained by Its Inventor Pieter Hoff

Comments on Reforestation and the Waterboxx Solution

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    • Claudia Tello profile image

      Claudia Tello 4 years ago from Mexico

      That's great Letitia!!!!! I am thankful for your interest and enthusiasm. When I read about the waterboxx I was very excited as well and thought it would be a top issue to write a hub about, very worth it. Right now, Mexico is working on a reforestation project for the California peninsula, and that is fantastic news as well. It will be a showcase for all America.

    • LetitiaFT profile image

      LetitiaFT 4 years ago from Paris via California

      This is one of the most exciting things I've seen in a long long time. I'm sharing right away, here and with friends that work on similar issues. Thanks so much. Wow.

    • Claudia Tello profile image

      Claudia Tello 4 years ago from Mexico

      LongTimeMother, nature really never ceases to surprise us with all its wonders doesn't it? I was also surprised by how such a simple device as the waterboxx could help in such a phenomenal way to plant in arid areas and all the potentially massive outcomes that could come from it! I have also done the same things with rocks but I always used them to prevent water from draining out of the pot. Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment.

    • LongTimeMother profile image

      LongTimeMother 4 years ago from Australia

      This makes perfect sense. I was surprised to learn a few years ago that rocks have minerals and nutrients that trees can access, so if I am feeling energetic I crush a few rocks and put the dust in the bottom of the hole when planting a new tree ... just in case it helps. :)

    • Claudia Tello profile image

      Claudia Tello 5 years ago from Mexico

      Carol: Great! That was exactly my goal in writing this hub, spread the word and let more people know about this new technology. If the right person learns about it, great positive change can occur. For us, people with unfertile gardens, it is a device that brings hope back again! :) :)

      Thanks so much for your comments and feedback.

    • Claudia Tello profile image

      Claudia Tello 5 years ago from Mexico

      Kris, I found this planting technology very interesting too and decided it was really worth to write a hub about it as it helps resolve some serious worldwide problems at the moment. In Mexico, the government thinks so too and is going to use the waterboxx to massively reforest the arid California Peninsula. I am very glad about that! :)

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting, I really appreciate it.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 5 years ago from Arizona

      I also learned something new today. I found this most interesting and well written. Thank you

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana

      Very interesting. I hadn't heard of this so I learned something new today! Thanks for sharing this information with us