Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Groasis Waterboxx Cost Calculator

This blog is dedicated to education about trees and the value of growing trees with the Groasis Waterboxx.  One of the objections people have to the Groasis Waterboxx is it's initial cost.  This cost must not be considered in isolation, however, as the traditional method of planting trees has many hidden costs as well.  Below you will find an spreadsheet where you can enter costs of traditional tree planting or tree planting with the Waterboxx.  The blue boxes require inputs (you can change the current values), red indicates the more expensive planting option, and green the more affordable option.  It must be remembered that this is a calculator only for the cost of planting the first year - and the Waterboxx can last for up to 10 years.  The same calculator, as well as much other information, can be found at our website, Dew Harvest.

From Groasis.com





As you can see above, the Groasis Waterboxx is frequently cheaper than traditional tree planting in the first year.  Be sure to look at your water bill, however, because the Waterboxx will allow you to conserve water as it is refilling from natural sources. We would love to hear your comments below - to leave one, please click on "Comments".

Monday, May 26, 2014

Carbon Realism and the Groasis Waterboxx

A great deal of ink has been spilled discussing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.  Some scientists and politicians state that this increase in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases poses a short term threat to climate, but this doesn't seem to be born out by recent evidence (a pause in warming over the past 15 years).  However, it is clear that as we burn much of the carbon sequestered over the past several hundred million years in coal, oil, and natural gas that carbon in the atmosphere will increase greatly.  Carbon concentrations could perhaps double or triple from below 300 parts per million (ppm) at the beginning of the industrial revolution.   We have have already increased from around 300 ppm in the middle part of the last century to 400 ppm now.


Carbon Dioxide Concentration in that atmosphere over the past 50 years. Note the saw toothed shaped (variation up to 5 ppm) annually, caused by sequestration in vegetation like trees - From NASA

Even if unsure about man-made global warming, we do not increasing carbon dioxide causes ocean acidification.  So, assuming that increasing atmospheric carbon is a problem, we should consider solutions.   Most solutions that have been put forward are clearly worse than the current disease.  Politicians give us false choices that are, perhaps not incidentally, destined to concentrate much more power and wealth in national capitals with, surprise, politicians!  On the disincentive side, we are given the choice between huge new taxes on carbon or a similar cap and trade tax scheme.  These policies have proven so restrictive in Europe that they have largely reversed course due to the clearly more pressing economic problems and Australia just repealed its carbon tax.

 When trying to be positive when speaking about climate change, politicians speak about "green" energy production.  Solar and wind power are the two most broadly deployed "green" power production technologies.  Wind power has been around for several hundred years, has severe limitations imposed by the laws of physics (at most turbines can only capture 59.3% of the energy of the wind, a property know as Betz' Law), and has profound detrimental effects on the environment itself.  These environmental effects include deaths of huge numbers of migratory birds (including many different eagle species) to noise pollution to ruination of the natural beauty of land and sky.  Solar is far more promising, and has not yet reached anywhere near maximal theoretical efficiency with photovoltaic cells.  However, both of these options remain far too expensive to be used on a large scale, especially in developing countries where the cheapest option for electricity generation is almost always coal (which produces the most carbon emissions).

An option that politicians don't mention, likely because they wouldn't see their influence increase were it implemented, is something termed the "Treesolution" by the inventor of the Groasis Waterboxx, Pieter Hoff.  The Treesolution is this - use the ingenious power of the Groasis Waterboxx to plant trees on nearly worthless land that currently lies fallow.  These trees can be chosen to be suitable to the environment chosen and commercially valuable.  This will upgrade near worthless land, but will also sequester huge amounts of carbon.  One average mature tree can sequester one metric ton (2200 lbs) of carbon dioxide.  This means that 25 trees planted each year could fully counterbalance the carbon emissions of the average American.  This number of 25 trees per person per year seems large, and would be were it to cost money.  But trees are profitable, they produce fruits, nuts, and of course timber (for construction or heat) when planted on a large scale.  When planted on a small scale (on a housing lot), they increase property value significantly and decrease heating and cooling costs.  Planting trees to mitigate carbon pollution is the only win-win option in the whole climate change debate.  




How does the Groasis Waterboxx figure in to this?  The Waterboxx was designed to plant trees in areas where there is sufficient rainfall, but where this precipitation happens in too short a span (usually one week of monsoon like rain, common in most of the American Southwest).  The Waterboxx encourages trees to grow deep tap roots down to underground water.  It provides a steady supply of water to a growing tree during the tree's critical period, preventing death from drought.  It prevents evaporation of soil moisture from evaporation.  It allows the natural capillary channels and mycorrhizae of the soil to remain intact, speeding growth and increasing water absorption.  The Groasis Waterboxx also collects dew and rainwater, freeing the tree planter from having to tend to the tree until it has outgrown the Waterboxx.  The Waterboxx was so impressive that it was named Popular Science's 2010 Innovation of the Year.  After reading about the Waterboxx, we were so impressed we decided to start a company to promote the Waterboxx in the United States.  Dew Harvest is that company.  At Dew Harvest we believe that man made problems like increased atmospheric carbon can have man made answers - in this case the "Treesolution" in Mr. Hoff's inimitable word.  We can repair the damage we have done to the Earth both from pollution and deforestation, and the Groasis Waterboxx can be part of that solution.

Rather than fretting over increasing carbon and possible global warming, rather than waiting for politicians to act, be part of the solution.  Start planting trees on a large scale with the Groasis Waterboxx, either on your land or with a local city beautification (tree planting) group.   We would love to hear your comments below - to leave one, please click on "Comments". 

Sources:

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Capillary Water

Capillary Water

Water is a fascinating substance, renowned for its chemical properties.  This is the reason scientists believe it is essential for life, and so much of our search for life elsewhere is based on finding water first.  Detailed here is one of the less understood but utterly essential properties of water - capillary action.

Capillary action is the ability of water to lift itself up the sides of narrow tubes.  Water does this by forming bonds (called hydrogen bonds) with the sides of the tube it resides in.  This property of water - binding to another substance - is called adhesion, while water's bonding to itself is called cohesion.  This is very evident in a glass rain gauge, where the water on the sides of the glass curves upward (making the water form a concave meniscus).  This effect is more pronounced the thinner the tube, lessening the depressing effects of gravity in the center of the meniscus.  A somewhat opposite effect is seen with the element mercury, which is more attracted to itself than to the glass walls of a tube.  

File:Capillarity.svg
From Messer Woland via Wikipedia
Without water's capillary action, life would not be possible.  Trees and other plants rely on capillary action to "wick" up water from the soil in narrow tubes called xylem.  The water is released from the leaves in a process called transpiration.  Water, which is itself necessary to the plant, is also an excellent solvent and carries nutrients to where the plant needs without a pump.  

The soil is also dependent on capillary action, as it has many small pathways formed by microorganisms.  This is the way in water is able to spread both laterally throughout the soil, as well as from deeper (where aquifers are present) to higher up.  This water then evaporates from the top layer of the soil unless something blocks the sun.  This is clearly evident by lifting up a stepping stone on a hot sunny day, and feeling the soil beneath it versus the soil around it.  The ground underneath the stepping stone is moist, while the ground around it is dry.  

 Nature doesn't need to dig a well and insert an electric pump to move water; it uses this capillary action.  We ignore Nature's wisdom when we ignore this phenomenon.  Nature does rain, but this can be infrequent, and it doesn't need daily or even weekly watering of seeds to keep them alive because seedlings can get water from the ground via capillary action.

 Capillary action can be easily demonstrated by placing colored water in a bowl, and then inserting a strip of paper towel as below:


You can see water working against gravity climbing up the paper towel.  The same process happens in the soil through the capillary channels already established there.  Feel free to try this simple experiment at home to help children (or yourself) understand capillary action.

It is important to note that capillary water is not ground water in the traditional sense.  Capillary water is water held by physical forces only a few (<10) feet from the surface, while ground water is much deeper where there is enough water to saturate the soil.  Plant roots rarely reach ground water (except in places with a high water table) but still do very well by accessing capillary water.  In deserts where the water table (ground water level) is extremely deep (if present at all), trees survive by roots accessing capillary water.

So consider the traditional tree planting method in light of what you learned above.  You buy a tree from a nursery in a pot.  You dig a large hole for that pot (with current recommendations being as deep and twice as wide as the root ball) - disturbing both the bottom and side capillary channels in the soil - essentially guaranteeing that the tree will quickly dry out without watering from above (namely, you or an irrigation system).  You then have two choices for preventing evaporation of the water from the soil around the tree.  Choice one is wood mulch, which works fair but allows weeds and grass to grow through, robbing the tree of water and space.  Also, mulch is made of wood, and wood is porous to water, so you still get considerable evaporation.  Your second choice is the rather expensive rubber tree mats made from old tires.  The good news is that these vulcanized rubber mats are almost completely impermeable to water, preventing evaporation of water from the soil.  The bad news is that the vulcanized rubber mats are almost completely impermeable to water, preventing almost all rainwater from reaching the roots beneath them.  All of this means that the tree will need to be watered by human intervention until the roots grow down to capillary water and the tree canopy becomes large enough to cast a shadow on the soil beneath it, preventing evaporation from the soil.  We will call the method just described the electric water pump method of tree planting because it uses a great deal of unnecessary energy and materials to replicate a system Nature has already perfected.

From Groasis.com, explaining the benefits of capillary water and the problem with traditional planting of trees

Compare this to planting a seed or small bare root tree with the Groasis Waterboxx.  The Groasis Waterboxx is a brilliantly conceived water battery for trees, which uses the principle of capillary water to plant trees in dry climates. If planting a seed with the Waterboxx, the seed is placed directly on the existing soil and in contact with the capillary channels of the soil.  The primary root sprouts, and is sustained both by water coming up from the soil as well as water dripping down to it from the reservoir of the Waterboxx (the Waterboxx is refilled with dew and rain water, without human intervention).  The specialized UV resistant plastic of the Waterboxx prevents evaporation and drying out of the soil beneath it (like the rubber mat).  However, unlike the mat, it channels rainwater directly to the roots (like the wood mulch) with its lotus leaf inspired lid.  Unlike the wood mulch, the Waterboxx prevents grass and weed growth around the tree, will last for many years, and can be reused.  The Waterboxx combines the best features of both the synthetic and the natural.

If planting a small bare root tree, the principles are the same as planting a seed, but the primary root is inserted directly into a small hole in the soil beneath the Waterboxx.  The primary root (taproot) receives enough water from the Waterboxx to grow, and roots grow only where there is water, so its primary root pushes deeper until it reaches deeper underground capillary water. The Waterboxx is removed at this time (which is usually evidenced by a growth spurt). We will call this method the Natural Method, or perhaps the Efficient Method.

It is small wonder that the Waterboxx both increases tree survival rate and increases the rate of tree growth.  The Groasis Waterboxx took seven years and 7.1 million dollars to develop, with every possible consideration given.  It has successfully been used to grow trees in the Sahara desert with 88% success rate.  The Waterboxx can be purchased here.

In addition to increasing the survival rate of trees, the Groasis Waterboxx also helps landowners conserve water.  If you do decide to try out the Waterboxx, check the cost of your water bill for a given month before the Waterboxx and after.  The Waterboxx can have a significant positive effect, rainfall and other variables being kept equal.  You can use our Waterboxx cost calculator here.

We document the success of the Waterboxx growing many things elsewhere on this site, from Giant Sequoia and red oak, to pear trees and pumpkins.   We have more information on the Waterboxx at hour main Dew Harvest site here.   You can also buy the Waterboxx at our website.  Be the first in your area to start growing plants with the Groasis Waterboxx today.

For more information about capillary action, please see our sources: 

http://science.jrank.org/pages/1182/Capillary-Action.html
http://www.ec.gc.ca/eau-water/default.asp?lang=En&n=BCCCF74B-1#tension
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capillary_action
http://www.madsci.org/posts/archives/1998-02/887637827.Ch.r.html
http://www.biologylessons.sdsu.edu/classes/lab1/semnet/hydrogen_bonding.htm

http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/capillaryaction.html

We would love to hear your comments below - to leave one, please click on "Comments". 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Do Trees Make It Rain?

Most people have the old diagram of the water cycle (the system of evaporation, cloud formation, and rainfall) that they learned in grade school hidden somewhere in the back of their minds.  In this diagram the sun warms the ocean, water evaporates from the ocean and forms clouds.  These clouds move inland and release their moisture as rain (or sometimes snow or other frozen precipitation). While this picture isn't wrong, it is incomplete.

Trees play a large role in increasing rainfall.  In fact, scientists believe 33-40% of precipitation is due to evapotranspiration from forests.  In the summer in areas, the amount of rainfall originally derived from forests can be as high as 50%.  Evapotranspiration is the process by which trees elevate water from the ground, through their roots up to their canopies and up into the air.  It is remarkably efficient way to liberate ground water and allow it to come down again as rain.  Without trees, most of the ground water would return to the oceans and mix with salt water without ever being used.  Trees can lift up to 100 gallons of water from the ground into the air in one day.

Scientists have long suspected that clouds gain more moisture as they travel over forests, but recent satellite imagery has found "that the more vegetation [forest] the air had traveled over, the more moisture it carried and more rain was produced" (see link below). The fear is that deforestation of the Amazon may lead to drier climates all around.   

We know in many areas summers are getting drier, an a possible cause for this is deforestation.  In Indiana, our rich, productive farmland is almost all cleared forest, as is much of the Eastern United States.  We have also seen our summers getting drier recently. 


A more complete and accurate, if more complicated, diagram of the water cycle from the USGS.  It shows the significant contribution of trees to air moisture and precipitation.  The trees lift water from deep underground using their roots and capillary action to grow.  

There are even questions about whether once successful classical civilizations like the Maya in central America or the Minoans on ancient Crete induced local climate destroying droughts by clearing large forests (for farming in the case of the Maya, for shipbuilding for the Minoans).  

Of course, no society is going to replant productive crop land with trees on a large scale because of risks of decreasing rainfall.  
Planting forests could help drought, but we won't plant forests on good farmland because the farmland itself is so valuable.  So is there anything that can be done?  

Yes!  New technology, designed in Holland to be used in dry areas around the Earth, allows trees to be planted in very dry areas regardless of rainfall.  This technology, called the Groasis Waterboxx, acts a self recharging water battery, filling up with dew and rare rainwater, and slowly channeling this water to the roots of the growing tree.  This forms a column of water beneath the Waterboxx, inducing the tree's roots to reach deep to underground water reservoirs called capillary water (the underground water that would sit stagnant or flow to the sea without the Waterboxx).  The Waterboxx is removed once the tree reaches deeper water stores (evidenced by a growth spurt), and reused up to nine more times.  


The Waterboxx is literally earth changing because it allows trees to be established for profit in areas that have too irregular rainfall to have any other crops.  It works so well that 88% of trees planted with the Waterboxx survived a year in the Sahara, compared to around 11% planted without the Waterboxx but with weekly planting.  This survival rate increases to 99% if two trees are planted per Waterboxx and only the stronger one is kept.  The Waterboxx will allow orchards and timber farms to be established in what was otherwise considered useless land, slowly changing climate.  



Salt cedar trees growing in the Sahara Desert over 3 years with the Waterboxx PlantCocoon® - no water was given to these trees or added to their Waterboxxes at any time after planting!
Clearly no single planting, no orchard, park or forest planted in a current arid area is going to substantially increase rainfall.  But as planting trees with the Waterboxx is profitable, in the future we can reverse the damage we have previously done to our climate by planting large numbers of orchards, parks, timberland on private land.  Their cumulative effect will not just enrich our individual lives and properties, but our world as a whole.  Imagine the entire western Great Plains, from Canada to Texas, an area generally too dry to farm, planted with an uninterrupted swath of trees native to the area.  Imagine parks throughout the eastern U.S. planted with massive trees like sequoias, that recycle huge amounts of water into the atmosphere.   The Waterboxx can allow us to plant trees in dry areas without irrigation and with irregular rainfall.

The Groasis Waterboxx is sold by Dew Harvest LLC in the United States.  Buy the Waterboxx here.  




A schematic view with a cutaway corner of the Groasis Waterboxx PlantCocoon.  Water is collected by the lotus leaf inspired lid, channeled and stored in the green reservoir, and slowly released via a wick to the roots of a growing tree or plant. 
We would love to hear your comments below - to leave one, please click on "Comments".

Do Trees Reduce Stress?

Trees have many well known benefits - cleaning water, reducing flooding, production of fruit and nuts, production of timber, stabilization of climate.  However, most people have not heard of the research regarding trees and psychology.

Neighborhoods with more trees have lower crime rates.  In research conducted by Sullivan and Kuo in housing projects in Chicago, it was found that buildings with trees had objectively higher interaction between residents within the community.  They theorized that this was due to trees making outdoor spaces more inviting for people, allowing neighbors to get to know each other better.  This was associated with less violence.  "The researchers found fewer reports of physical violence in homes that had trees outside the buildings" according the University of Illinois (link below).  
A treeless building of the Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago prior to demolition (from Wikipedia, see below for attribution).
Trees are also well known to increase property value.  For homeowners wanting to make their neighborhood more inviting (and their property more valuable), planting trees can be a low cost investment with continuing returns.  This is also true of landowners with rental properties.

Perhaps the largest obstacle to planting trees on residential property is the belief, previously well founded, that trees are expensive to care for during periods of drought, difficult to plant, and require groundskeepers or lawn care contractors.  While this perhaps was once true, the Groasis Waterboxx has changed much of that.  The Groasis Waterboxx is a device that allows small, inexpensive, bare root trees to be planted for minimal cost.  These trees grow much faster than larger, root bound store bought trees.  The Waterboxx, filled only at tree planting with water, refills itself from both rain (when available) and daily dew.  This water is slowly released to the roots of the growing tree, until the tree has a growth spurt after reaching deeper water.  The Waterboxx is then removed, and the tree is resistant to further droughts.  The Waterboxx can be reused for other trees.  No care is needed after the initial planting of the tree - no groundskeepers or lawn care workers must be paid.

The Groasis Waterboxx


Trees change the character of neighborhoods and properties.  The Groasis Waterboxx offers an inexpensive and reusable means of establishing long-lived trees on private or public property.  The Waterboxx can be purchased in the United States from Dew Harvest LLC.

If you are associated with a civic organization and are interested in the Waterboxx, please contact us hereWe would love to hear your comments below - to leave one, please click on "Comments".



Sources:

http://permanent.access.gpo.gov/lps2091/tb4.htm

http://lhhl.illinois.edu/media/thepoweroftrees.htm

Robert Taylor Homes: By Kaffeeringe.de at en.wikipedia [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], from Wikimedia Commons

Do Trees Reduce Flooding and Erosion?

Elsewhere on this site, the many benefits of trees have been discussed.  With a wet spring and recent tragic landslides in the national news, we thought we would discuss the positive effects of trees on flood control and erosion prevention.

Trees prevent flooding during heavy rains by several mechanisms.  First, broad leaf trees slow rainfall when rain hits their leaves and must slowly percolate to the ground.  This gives more time for the ground to absorb the water as the rain reaches the ground over a longer time period.  Just as leaves of a tree decrease vertical water speed, trunks and roots of the tree (and other vegetation) slow the horizontal speed of water once it has reached the ground.  This also gives the water more time to be absorbed into the soil.

The roots of the tree increase space between soil particles, allowing the water that does reach the ground to follow these root created channels to deeper water reservoirs.  Once rainfall does reach the roots of the tree, it is absorbed by the roots, and lifted by the tree into the canopy and atmosphere again in a process called evapotranspiration.  This process decreases the total amount of water with which our streams and rivers need to deal.

Trees also prevent erosion.  The most obvious way trees to this is through the binding effect of their roots, turning soil into a type of reinforced dirt.  As mentioned above, trees also slow water flows, which decreases erosion.  The canopies of trees also decrease wind speed, another cause of erosion when the soil is dry or being plowed for agriculture.  Trees planted as riparian buffers (along waterways) prevent soil erosion by fast flowing water already in the stream, as demonstrated by the image of a unforested waterway below.

A creek bank that has continually eroded due to the lack of stabilizing tree roots along it.  This creek will get ever wider (and shallower) until trees are planted.

How can the Groasis Waterboxx help with prevention of flooding and erosion?  Trees can be hard to establish, prone to death after transplant and during their critical first year.  When trees are bought from the big box stores they generally have fine canopies but very poor root systems, with a destroyed primary or tap root.  Because of their poor roots, these trees require frequent watering, and don't become well established and stabilize the soil for several years.  The Groasis Waterboxx allows smaller, bare root (with tap root intact) trees to be purchased (or found wild), and planted with the Waterboxx.  The Waterboxx requires watering only at initial set up, and never again.  Dew and rain water will fill the Waterboxx.  The Waterboxx slowly releases water to the roots of a growing tree, forming a water column in the soil beneath the tree that allows the tree's roots to get well established and grow straight down.  Once the tree's roots reach deeper water, you will see a growth spurt and the Waterboxx can be removed. The Waterboxx can be reused several more times (for up to ten years) on other trees.  Watch a video of the Waterboxx in action below



You can buy the Groasis Waterboxx in the United States from Dew Harvest. We would love to hear your comments below - to leave one, please click on "Comments".


https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/learn/threats-to-our-woodland/human-impact/how-tree-planting-could-help-reduce-flood-risk-in-wales/

http://www.sciences360.com/index.php/how-trees-prevent-flooding-3031/

http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/soil-erosion-and-conservation/page-7

http://www.agroforestry.net.au/edit/pdfs/Design%20Principles%20Soil%20Cons%20Chapter%203.pdf