Using watering bags to nurture young trees can help ensure a moist soil environment as the plants develop root structure. But standard watering bags require constant refills, and do little to deter stormwater runoff pollution. However, a new product made from the same material used in disposable diapers can catch and retain rainwater before releasing it super-slowly, allowing low-maintenance survival for young trees even in inhospitable growing conditions.
Named the TreeDiaperTM Advanced Hydration System, this technology received a National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research grant in 2013. The collar-shaped device can keep young trees and other plants hydrated for weeks or months at a time. And, by absorbing and distributing less water than standard watering bags, the TreeDiaper system largely mitigates stormwater runoff.
A new way to water
According to Hailing Yang, president and CEO of Zynnovation (Ashland, Va.), this solution is made from agricultural-grade, super-absorbent polymers wrapped in geo-textile fabric — the same types of absorptive polymers used in disposable diapers. A version of the product made from unused, industrially rejected diapers also is available for special orders.
The TreeDiaper can sustain plants in most regions using just 2.5 cm (1 in.) of stormwater each month, Yang said. In arid climates, the systems can be “recharged” with a fraction of the water that typical irrigation systems require. Unlike standard watering bags, this system also offers protection from extreme weather, helps to control erosion, and inhibits the growth of weeds. It can be used both indoors and outdoors, and ranges in diameter from 25 to 121 cm (10 to 48 in.) to suit a wide variety of plants.
After inking a nationwide manufacturing and distribution deal with ACF Environmental (Richmond, Va.) in November, Zynnovation now is focused on research and development in hopes of making the recycled-diaper version of the system economically feasible for mass production.