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Zeolite - mineral soil conditioner

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Experimental trial of soil improvers in MinoprioExperimental trial of soil improvers in Minoprio

Our experimental trial at the Minoprio Foundation has allowed us to test many organic and mineral soil improvers. One of these is natural zeolite. Natural zeolite has been applied in turfgrasses on sports fields for over 15 years. Due to its unique porosity and negative molecular charge, zeolite retains more water and nutrients in the sandy substrate, forming strong, healthy and longer-lasting turf for play.

Zeolite is basically used for its high cation exchange capacity (CEC) needed to increase fertility in the sandy growing medium. Zeolites, like humus, have a CEC between 150-250 meq/100g.

When zeolite is mixed with river sand it provides an immediate and permanent increase in cation exchange capacity, so mixing 5-10% zeolites in the root zone is a quick and relatively inexpensive way to create a useful CEC before sowing natural grass.

Zeolites have selective adsorption capacities for certain nutrient cations as they can hold ammonium (NH4+) and potassium (K+) ions. These ions can be easily exchanged when the plant's roots require them.

Zeolites retain their structure allowing N and K to be absorbed when nitrogen/potassium fertilisers are applied, so valuable N and K are released to the turf roots when required.

Zeolites reduce the leaching of N and K, thus increasing the efficiency of nutrients applied by fertilisers, which are available for better growth by producing a deeper and denser root system.

Research has shown much less leaching of fertiliser from substrates amended with zeolite than from soil or organic soil improvers.

Zeolite sand from ClinoptiloliteZeolite sand from Clinoptilolite

The benefits of lower nutrient leaching in groundwater, streams and dams can only improve the quality of the water cycle and the environment.

Zeolite is a natural wetting agent and retains more water in the profile. It also retains wetting agents applied in liquid form for a longer effect. The increase in water retention and its natural dispersion reduces the phenomenon of dry-spots and all together gives the turf a better wear resistance.

The best quality and highest % zeolite content is provided by Clinoptilolite. Its internal structure is very open offering a larger surface area but, at the same time, it has a strong physical resistance to crushing. A smaller amount of zeolite is present in Phillipsite and its structure is less resistant while an even smaller amount with an even weaker structure is provided by Chabazite. However, CEC appears to be very similar to all three.

Amending river sand with zeolite may take a few years to amortise their initial cost on the basis of fertiliser savings alone but, in the construction of sports pitches, zeolite dramatically increases the speed at which the grass settles and its resistance to wear, which are more important factors from the outset.

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