A time-release water gel (TRWG) is a carboxymethylcellulose cross-linked polymer. The gel is degraded by microorganisms to yield free water. Cellulose degrading microorganisms can be found in all soil types and produce enzymes for breakdown of cellulose (Wheeler, PhD & Peterson, 2006, p. 2). A TRWG product is more beneficial to plants by providing increased value other than watering alone such as increasing root mass growth within the first 30-days of planting. An increase in a plants root mass will result in enhanced plant growth, better appearance, and improved nutrition uptake.
Essential to the TRWG product is the micronutrient zinc. Zinc is essential to many enzyme systems in plants with three main functions including catalytic, co-catalytic, and structural integrity. Zinc contributes to the production of important growth regulators which affect photosynthesis, new growth, and development of roots (Mordvedt, Cox, Shuman, & Welch, 1991) (as cited in Wheeler, PhD & Peterson, 2006, p. 2) and improves stress tolerance. If zinc is in short supply, plant utilization of other essential plant nutrients such as nitrogen will decrease.
During the research and development of TRWG the selection of zinc sulfate as the source of zinc was based on scientific literature. Many sources of zinc have been tested to see which compound would be utilized more efficiently by plant species. Zinc sulfate is the most readily available form for plants (Amrani, Westfall, & Peterson, 1993, p. 1-10). Zinc sulfate also contains a sulfate ion. The sulfate ion (SO42-) is a beneficial nutrient which naturally occurs in soil. Sulfur is used to bind amino acids together by sulfide bridging to create enzymes and proteins, the building blocks of life (Wheeler, PhD & Peterson, 2006, p. 2).
Another important ingredient in TRWG is the plant growth hormone, glacial-3-acetic acid, which is a naturally occurring auxin. The term auxin is derived from the Greek word “auxein” meaning “to grow”. Auxin is a generic term representing a class of compounds which are characterized by their ability to induce elongation in shoot cells. Glacial-3 acetic acid regulates cellular elongation, phototropism, geotropism, apical dominance, root initiation, ethylene production, fruit development, parthenocaarpy, abscission, and sex expression, all of which are necessary for normal plant growth (Arteca, 1996, p. 15-16).
Research indicates that the presence of glacial 3-acetic acid will improve the uptake of minerals. Glacial-3 acetic acid is also known as a preservative and will aid in preserving the gel’s viscosity and help protect the gel from premature microorganism degradation.
To maintain plants normal growth, glacial-3 acetic acid must be produced and regulated by the plant. Zinc is a co-factor in the transformation of the amino acid tryptophan to the auxin. Zinc will help maintain acetic acid levels in the plant and promote growth, rooting, and health (Wheeler, PhD & Peterson, 2006, p. 2).