Environmental Processes

, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 617–628 | Cite as

Estimated Water Savings in an Agricultural Field Amended With Natural Zeolites

  • Nicolò Colombani
  • Dario Di Giuseppe
  • Barbara Faccini
  • Giacomo Ferretti
  • Micòl MastrociccoEmail author
  • Massimo Coltorti
Original Article


Agricultural practices can jeopardize soil and water quality, thus mitigation measures to reduce nutrient loss and to protect water resources have to be implemented in order to ensure a sound environmental quality and, at the same time, a high crop yield. Natural zeolites have been tested as soil conditioner to diminish nutrient leaching and increase irrigation efficiency. In this study, an experimental site of 6 ha was monitored for two years to assess whether amending the soil with natural zeolite may induce a considerable impact on the water balance. Three control parcels were cultivated and irrigated according to the traditional way; two parcels were amended with coarse-grained natural zeolite at different zeolite/soil ratio (5 and 15 kg/m2) and two parcels were amended with fine-grained zeolite (7 and 10 kg/m2). Soil electrical conductivity, temperature and volumetric water content were continuously monitored via TDR probes at different depths. Climatic variables for water balance calculation were obtained by a meteorological station installed on-site. Continuous monitoring highlighted an increase of soil water availability in the amended parcels with respect to the control ones. The parcel amended with 10 kg/m2 of fine-grained natural zeolite showed an average water content always higher than the control ones, in the upper soil horizon. In addition, after intense rainfall, this parcel showed an increased field capacity and a reduced percolation towards the deeper soil horizon. Finally, the residual water content was improved by 1.2 ± 0.4 % throughout the summer droughts.


Field experiment Natural zeolite Soil amendment Volumetric water content 



Two anonymous reviewers and the Guest Editor Prof. Isik Kabdasli are acknowledged for their constructive criticisms, which helped to substantially improve this manuscript. The authors gratefully thank Dr. Umberto Tessari and Francesco Droghetti from the Physics and Earth Sciences Department of the University of Ferrara for the grain size analysis and soil collection. This work has been supported by EC LIFE+ funding to ZeoLIFE project (LIFE+10 ENV/IT/000321). An initial version of this paper has been presented at the 9th World Congress of the European Water Resources Association (EWRA) “Water Resources Management in a Changing World: Challenges and Opportunities”, Istanbul, Turkey, June 10–13, 2015.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth Sciences“Sapienza” University of RomeRomeItaly
  2. 2.Department of Physics and Earth SciencesUniversity of FerraraFerraraItaly
  3. 3.Department of Environmental, Biological and Pharmaceutical Sciences and TechnologiesSecond University of NaplesCasertaItaly

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