Wax-coated Sand Could Provide Moisture-Saving Ground Cover for Arid Regions

Researchers reporting in ACS Agricultural Science & Technology have developed a simple, biodegradable ground cover — wax-coated sand — that keeps soil wet and increases crop yields in arid environments. It could offer an alternative to plastic sheeting ground covers that are expensive and create a waste challenge. A thin layer of paraffin wax-coated sand applied on an open field in Saudi Arabia decreased the loss of soil moisture by as much as 50 to 80%. Field trials revealed that tomato, barley, and wheat plants mulched with the new material produced substantially more fruit and grain than those grown in uncovered soil. In addition, the microbial community around the plants’ roots and in the soil wasn’t negatively impacted by the waxy mulch, according to study results.