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Mexican Farmers Fight Drought with Solid Rain

You may not of heard of it before, but Solid Rain has been helping Mexican farmers fights severe droughts for over a decade. The miracle powder is actually a super absorbent polymer that can soak up water up to 500 times its original size and keep it in the ground for up to a year.

The story of Solid Rain began in 1970, when the United States Department of Agriculture developed a super absorbent product made from a type of starch known as “super slurper”. In the U.S., it has mainly been used in disposable diapers, to help keep baby bottoms dry, but a Mexican chemical engineer saw this magic powder as an opportunity to effectively fight the drought plaguing his country.

Sergio Rico Velasco developed and patented a different version of potassium polyacrylate that could be mixed with soil and slowly feed water to plants over a long period of time. His company, Solid Rain, has been quietly selling the product to Mexican farmers for over 10 years now.

Photo: Solid Rain/Facebook

Just 10 grams of Solid Rain powder can absorb up to a liter of water, becoming a thick translucent gel. The water will not evaporate or flow into the soil, as the gel acts as an underground reservoir exclusively for the plant roots. According to the Mexican company, Solid Rain lasts in the ground for 8 to 10 years, even longer if pure water is used.
A one year sample study conducted by the Mexican government in the semi-arid state of Hidalgo revealed that farm plots that used Solid Rain showed up to 300 percent increase in crop yield when compared to plots that didn’t use the product. For sunflower, the yield was 3000 kg per hectar when Solid Rain was used, compared to just 1000 kg in regular conditions. For beans, the difference was much higher – 3000 kg compared to just 450 kg.

Solid Rain seems to be working wonders in drought-affected Mexico, so why hasn’t it become a staple of agriculture around the world. Well, that’s mainly because a lot of people still don’t know about it. The Mexican company has invested almost nothing into marketing, relying instead on word-of-mouth between Mexican farmers. However, following a series of media reports on their miracle powder, they have gotten requests from other dry countries like India and Australia.

Photo: Solid Rain/Facebook

Edwin Gonzalez, vice president of Solid Rain, also points out that their product is all natural and doesn’t damage soil even if it is used for several years. “Our product is not toxic,” he told the BBC. “It’s made from a bio-arylamide. After it disintegrates the powder-like substance becomes part of the plant. It is not toxic.”

Solid Rain has been nominated for the Flobal Water Award twice and received the Ecology and Environment Award from the Fundacion Miguesl Aleman, but it has also attracted some criticism. Dr Linda Chalker Scott, from Washington State University claims that the product is hardly new and that there is no scientific evidence that it can retain water for a year or last in the ground for a decade.

Photo: Solid Rain/Facebook

Furthermore, Chalker Scott says Solid Rain can cause more harm than good, in certain conditions. “As the gels begin to dry out, they soak up surrounding water more vigorously. That means they will start taking water directly from plant roots.”

However, real-life use seems to show that Solid Rain is indeed as effective as Velasco and Gonzalez claim. Frank Torres, a former green bean farmer in the Mexican state of Sinaloa used to rely on Solid Rain even though drought wasn’t such a big issue, and claims that production increased by 50%. “Nitrogen wasn’t washing away every time we watered the plants,” he told Modern Farmer. “All the nutrients were absorbed into the roots.”

 

Patricia Lorenzo, a resident of San Diego, also swears by Solid Rain. It has helped cut her lawn sprinkler time from 45 minutes to just six minutes, and the woman claims she only needed to water her home garden four times in a few months.

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