SMITH VALLEY， the United States， Sept. 14 (Xinhua) — Suffering from its fourth straight year of drought， Smith Valley in Northern Nevada， a former crop-rich area， is now full of withered grass. However， an alfalfa crop field here continues to flourish despite its depressing surroundings.
Supported by a Chinese nanotechnology all-natural soil amendment， farmers here were talking and laughing one morning after a successful cut.
Even though exact data of the hi-tech materials for saving water and nourishing crops would have to be confirmed weeks later in a lab， crop advisor Ralph Nuti said in the field， “I can tell from the appearance that these alfalfa with Nanotech are better.”
The impact of climate change and water scarcity has brought extreme drought to California， Nevada and other western states in the United States， forcing California to order a mandatory statewide 25-percent water reduction in 2015.
Earlier this year， an American engineer Ted Venners found a solution to use less water for the same amount of crops: ZG NanoSim， a soil-improving material based on nanotechnology and created by Dr. Shi Changxu， the “Father of Material Sciences” in China.
“Nanotechnology is a system of making micro materials very small and then they will usually have 8 sides holding together like a honey comb，” Venners told Xinhua. “Therefore， they are able to hold the water better and hold the nutrients in it， so you do not lose the water in the ground and the water does not evaporate that fast.”
By helping lock water， fertilizers and nutrients inside the soil or sand， ZG NanoSim could substantially reduce water evaporation and drainage， while increasing fertilizer absorption by plants.
In March， an America team led by Nuti started a NanoSim test on an alfalfa crop in Smith Vally. He worked with the Chinese team and designed the test: they divided a 5-acre alfalfa field into 12 test plots with four control groups. Thursday was the time for the first official cutting.
“The purpose of the test was to demonstrate that we could produce the same amount of alfalfa with 30 percent less water，” Venners said. “In addition， we found that there is more nutrition and more value in the alfalfa than the ones without the Sims. There was a 10 to 30 percent increase in protein.”
“The NanoSim particles， when they hold water in the soil， it gets nutrient in that water， when it stores that water， it stores that nutrient，” Nuti added.
Alfalfa is the major crop in Smith Vally. Growing alfalfa requires plenty of water， however， the average rainfall in Smith Vally is only 77 mm to 102mm per year， far less than that of the Western United States， which is 400 mm to 500mm.
As an all-natural product， ZG NanoSim looks just like fine sand. Farmers apply the NanoSim into the soil before planting the seeds. Experts suggest reapplying the Sim annually by spread the product on the field and then fully water it to let them get into the soil.
Venners’ team also tested this product on residential lawns in Las Vegas for eight months. Rick Grant， application specialist for Sims， was trained by the Chinese team and supervised the lawn test.
“We want to see how would this product holds up when the temperature is consistently over 100 Fahrenheit (38 Centigrade)，” Grant said， “and the result is with 50 percent less irrigation.”
In August， University of Nevada， Las Vegas also started a lawn test on campus.
Meanwhile， Venners’ team is preparing for more tests and aims to introduce the Chinese Nanotechnology to more American farms.
“This product is something that we really need. Nevada is the driest state in the Unites States. California and Nevada both have extreme droughts going on. We also have a lot of agriculture inside both states，” Grant Anderson， who is in charge of the business development on Venners’ team， told Xinhua.
“With record-breaking temperature， and our rainfall is not getting any better， we really need a solution that can help all of these farmers to save their farms and grow their products.”