From the second half of 2001 to the first half of 2002, I did a test on artificial soils. The test was done to simulate the forming of natural soil under artificial factory conditions, out of which artificial soils with the essential properties of water-retaining, heat-retaining, permeation and fertility for plants to grow was made from inorganic and organic materials in a short period. Lab test of the soils for planting indicates that wheat can grow well in them with normal development of its roots, stem and leaves as well as the ear of wheat, which shows that the test has been successful. The process of the test is as follows:
In the second half of 2001, I collected 21 samples in Liaoning Province, among which No.1 sample is a natural soil from Niuzhuang, Haicheng City, used as reference system to other samples. No. 21 sample is dry cow dung collected in a village of Panjin to represent all kinds of organic matter.
The samples from No. 2 to No. 20 are respectively black mudstone (Liaohe Basin, Cenozoic), black mudstone ( Caitun mining area of Benxi Basin, Paleozoic), dark grey gangue (Caitun mining area of Benxi Basin, Paleozoic), brown shale(Caitun mining area of Benxi Basin, Paleozoic), brown grey shale(The West Opencut Coal Mine of Fushun Basin, Cenozoic), grey silty mudstone(Haizhou Opencut Coal Mine of Fuxin Basin, Mesozoic), black grey? gangue(Haizhou Opencut Coal Mine of Fuxin Basin,? Mesozoic), grey yellow clay(Jianping County, Chaoyang City, its era to be determined), grey silicon slate( Qianshan Mountain of Anshan City, pre-Paleozoic), grey phyllite(Qianshan Mountain of Anshan City, pre-Paleozoic), granite-gneiss(Qianshan Mountain of Anshan City, pre-Paleozoic), granite(Mount Yiwulu, its era to be determined), diorite(Mount Yiwulu, its era to be determined), black basalt(The West Opencut Coal Mine of Fushun Basin, Cenozoic), dark purple andesite( Mount Guiyunhua of Zhuanghe City, Mesozoic), fragment of brick-tile-pottery-porcelain( from the building site of Panjin City), coal cinder( from the boiler room of Heji Road of Panjin City), cement( from the building site of Panjin City) and slag (from Bohai Stockroom of Liaohe Oilfield produced in Anshan City). The 19 samples were used to represent solid wastes produced from industries, mining, smelting and building (except harmful matter).
Samples No. 2 to No. 20 are all inorganic matter and they originated from the lithosphere of the earth's crust, which shows that the artificial soil and natural soils are from the same origin.
B. The manufacturing process of the artificial soil
The process of manufacturing artificial soils is divided into three steps:
Firstly, powder was made out of the 19 samples respectively by pounding, abrading and screening and became what I Call " the parent materials manufacturing soil'. This is real hard work and it took more than 2 months to finish with tools such as iron hammer, manpower abrader and 100 hole/ cm2 metal screens.
Secondly, the cow dung, the parent materials manufacturing soil (also called "inorganic raw powder”) and water were mixed homogeneously and the mixture was made to ferment at the temperature of 45-55℃ and in anaerobic conditions to enable the organic matter to be resolved into nutrients that could be absorbed by plants and became what I call “the compost manufacturing soil”. My way of doing it was to mix the powder of black mudstone (No.2 sample) and granite (No. 13 sample) with cow dung and water and then to pour the mixture into a big plastic barrel to expel the air in it by compressing. Use another upside-down plastic barrel of the same size to cover the plastic barrel and seal up the joint of the two barrels with sealing belt to isolate from air and to keep an anaerobic environment. The two plastic barrels were enclosed with an electrothermal pad and current was given to them to keep relative stable temperatures. Temperature testing indicated that the temperature at the center of the barrel could reach 55℃ at the maximum and the temperature at the sides of the barrel was 10℃ lower. This process took 100 days. The gas produced during fermentation was sampled twice for ignition testing. Blue flame was observed in the first test, which indicated that a lot of methane existed while no flame was observed in the second test because of no combustible gas in the barrel, which indicated the decompounding peak of organic matter had been over.
Thirdly, the different parent materials manufacturing soil and the compost manufacturing soil were mixed homogeneously at proper ratio to form artificial soils. Among the artificial soils, the one with one parent material manufacturing soil was called one-element artificial soil and the one with three parent materials for manufacturing soil was called three-element artificial soil and so on and so forth. In the test, 21 samples of artificial soil were formulated, including 19 one-element artificial soils and one three-element artificial soil and one eleven-element artificial soil.
C. Lab test of planting
The No.1 sample which was a brown yellow natural soil from Niuzhuang, Haicheng City and 21 samples of artificial soils were respectively put in 22 flowerpots and the flowerpots were put on the balcony of my house to do the test. The crops planted included wheat, rice, pakchoi, spinach, flower, grass and wild garlic. The saplings of Chinese scholartree, willow and elm were also planted. Wheat planting was the focus of the test.
On April 16, 2002, 200 seeds of wheat were sown respectively in 20 flowerpots, among which No.1 flowerpot was loaded with No.1 natural soil sample and No.2-No.20 flowerpots were loaded with No.2-No. 20 artificial soil samples. Three days later, the seeds in No. 5, 7,8,10 and 15 flowerpots sprouted and in No.8 black grey gangue artificial soil, 10 seeds sprouted. On the fourth day, seedlings were found in No.1 natural soil flowerpot with 3 in the morning and 22 in the evening while at the same time, 73 seedlings had been found in No.8 artificial soil flowerpot. On the fifth day, seedlings were found in No.19 cement artificial soil flowerpot that was the last to have seedlings in the 20 flowerpots. Seedlings were also found in No.20 slag artificial soil. On April 23, i.e. eight days after sowing, No. 3 flowerpot with black mudstone artificial soil in it had the most seedlings of 192 with the germination percentage of 96%, followed by No.1 natural soil with 188 seedlings and the germination percentage of 94%. The worst case was with No. 19 cement artificial soil with 73 seedlings and the germination percentage of 36%. By April 28, the seedlings in No.19 soil had increased to 127 with the germination percentage of 63%. The seedlings in No. 20 slag artificial soil reached 133 with the germination percentage of 66%, being the second from the bottom.
On May 5, 2002, the heights of the plants were measured, i.e. measuring the length from the surface of the soil to the top of the wheat leaves. The height of the wheat in No.13 granite artificial soil was 38cm, being the maximum, followed by the wheat in No. 1 natural soil of 36cm. The shortest was the wheat in No. 19 cement artificial soil with the height of 24cm and the wheat in No. 20 soil ranked the second from the bottom once again with 26cm.
On June 25, 2002, the first ear of wheat was found in No. 4 dark grey gangue artificial soil and wheat heads were spotted successively in other flowerpots afterwards. Up to now, it can be concluded that the lab test of artificial soils for planting has been successful. When the test was over, the development of the roots of wheat was observed and it was found that the development of roots in the artificial soils was no difference from that in natural soil except in No. 19 and No.20 soils. As for the low germination percentage and short and yellow plants at the initial stage as well as the occurrence of dead seedlings in No. 19 and No.20 soils, the poor living conditions for plants were to be blamed. Due to timely watering, the roots in these soils were developed better and the plants grew better.
D. Potential value of the test
The lab test of artificial soils came to a success, which was an undoubted fact because it was in accord with the basic principles of scientific experiment and it can withstand repeated experiments. People might get a glimpse of hope from my test that although the technology of artificial soil is not mature yet; it shows clearly that soil resources are no longer limited. Soils can be manufactured in factories on a large scale and at high speed. The time required for soils to form in nature is now reduced from several hundreds of thousands or even millions of years to several years or several months. It is reasonable for people to believe that the technology belonged to the Chinese people will provoke great changes to the economic and social life of China once it is commercialized and become successful in China. For example, if 10million mu(1mu=667m2) cultivated land is made artificially each year, 2 billion mu will be reached accumulatively in 200 years, which will double the cultivated land in China and provide hundreds of millions of job opportunities, resolving completely “the three agricultural problems”. On the other hand, environment-damaging and polluting materials (except those with heavy metals, radioactive and harmful chemical materials) can be converted to artificial soils by the mechanism of artificial soils manufacturing, forming a favorable cycle in a true sense and realizing the protection of natural environment. If the problems of agricultural resources, employment and environmental protection are settled in China, what other problems do we have that can restrict the development of our country?
These are the potential values brought about by the artificial soil test and are only the tip of the iceberg.
March 4. 2004