What is Zeolite and why is it good for my soil?
Zeolite is an organic mineral that is fairly unique in the realm of rock dusts. It has no inherent nutrient value like many other rock dusts such as carbonatite glacial rock dust contain, both of which, like zeolite, were formed millions of years ago through volcanic activity. Zeolite was formed When the glass component of volcanic ash came in contact with an alkaline water source, it formed Zeolite. This impacted the structure of the mineral Clinoptilolite contained within this ash, giving it an internally porous, lattice like structure. This structure has a greatly increased surface area, not unlike charcoal. It is this same lattice like structure in the charcoal that provides one of the benefits of biochar, its increased surface area. However, it is not simply this increased surface area alone that provides the significant benefit to soil that Zeolite can deliver.
Zeolite has one other unique aspect, in that it holds a negative charge. There are very few minerals in nature’s realm that carry a negative charge. It is the negative charge that allows Zeolite to ‘grab’ onto and hold positively charged ions or cations, such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, nitrogen rich ammonium and other trace elements. If these cations cannot be held in the soil, then the rain water will readily leach these valuable nutrients through the soil, which then make their way into our waterways.
When you consider the combination of the rare negative charge that some Zeolites carry and combine this with the significantly increased surface area that its porous mineral structure contains, you can see why Zeolite is a valuable soil amendment. This increased ability to hold onto cations means that Zeolite has a hi CEC, or cation exchange capacity. Zeolite acts as a sponge in the soil for these very important nutrients, and becomes a slow release nutrient reservoir. As they move through the soil particles, the plant rootlets are readily able to break the bonds that held these nutrients on the surface of the Zeolite particles and take them into their cell structures.
Zeolite is not a clay, and therefor remains quite stable in the soil. This means it will not breakdown or decompose, providing long term benefits and soil quality improvements. The same structure that provides for an increased surface area is also able to trap moisture in the soil and its strong capillary action holds onto this as well, yet allowing the soil to remain free draining. This means that Zeolite acts as a wetting agent in the soil and as a distributor of water. This alone helps to distribute nutrients more evenly through the soil.
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