By the year 2050, it is estimated that the earth’s population will rise by 2 billion. That is a lot of hungry mouths to feed, and it will require innovative solutions to expand agricultural production. According to researchers in Germany, high-tech fabrics could come to the rescue. They’ve developed heating textiles that are placed around the roots of plants to provide targeted warmth and aid in growth.
The textiles help save energy in a greenhouse by keeping the roots of plants warm, thus enabling the ambient temperature to be lowered with no reduction in yield. Additionally, the textiles can be used to control the vegetative phase to optimize the harvest and provide protection against frost, enabling delicate plants to be grown even in challenging climates.
Scientists at the Hohenstein Institute in Bonnigheim together with the roma-Strickstoff-Fabrik Rolf Mayer GmbH & Co. KG of Balingen and the State College of Horticulture and Agriculture at Stuttgart-Hohenheim experimented with various knitted polyester heating fabrics. One test fabric was galvanized with silver to conduct electricity. In a third case, conductivity was achieved by knitting stainless steel yarn into the fabric, and with a third it was accomplished by entwining two stainless steel threads in a criss-cross pattern into the fabric.
The fabrics were subjected to a number of tests including mechanical stress testing, and tests to assess the resistance of the textile to deconstruction by microorganisms as well as the heating capability of the textiles. Adjustments were made to the fabrics, including testing coatings, to mitigate for salt deposits and corrosion. Plants grown with the fabric grew significantly better than the comparison specimens in all test conditions.