Aoda, M. I., A. J. Smucker, S. S. Majeed, H. A. Mohammed, F. H. Al-Sahaf, and G. P. Robertson. 2021. Novel root zone soil water retention improves production with half the water in arid sands. Agronomy Journal 113:2398-2406.

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Urbanization and industrial competition continue to reduce both farmland and available water for food production. Therefore, a new root zone soil water retention technology was modified to transform highly permeable soils into sustainable agriculture. This long‐term drought avoidance technology was tested in two arid regions of Iraq, an arid country with declining irrigation water supplies. Manually installed U‐shaped impermeable membrane troughs were compared with manually installed thin layers of partially decomposed organic matter. Tomato (Solanum copersicum, L) variety Dafnis (Syngenta Sweden) and spicy pepper (Capsicum solanaceae, L) crops were Spring‐planted at Najaf and Diyala field sites during a two year study. Soil water, temperature, and salinity were measured hourly, and compared to crop growth parameters, yields, and irrigation water use efficiency. Combined weights of four tomato and spicy pepper harvests were (P = 0.05) 15% and 25% greater on sand soils equipped with root zone Soil Water Retaining Technology (SWRT) membranes and required 61% less irrigation water than crops grown on locally practiced organic matter‐lined and no water retaining control soils. Spicy pepper production on SWRT membranes (P = 0.05) increased 30% with concomitant (P = 0.05) 125% greater irrigation water use efficiency (IWUE) than organic matter‐layered and control soils at Diyala.

DOI: 10.1002/agj2.20648

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