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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Planting Sideways

Air Date: Week of

Host Bruce Gellerman interviews Lindsey Williams, a freshmen at Southern Methodist University. She won the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes for inventing a new kind of irrigation system for crops.


GELLERMAN: If you ever want to find Lindsey Williams, you might want to try the garden – Lindsey can grow tomatoes like nobody’s business. With her homemade irrigation device she can double the yield using just half the water that mortal growers need. She calls it “Lindsey’s Nutrient Delivery System,” and it earned her one of this year’s Gloria Barron Prizes for Young Heroes.

Lindsey Williams is 18 years old. She’s from St. Joseph, Missouri. She’s a freshman at Central Methodist University, and she joins me on the line. Hi, Lindsey.


GELLERMAN: Congratulations!

WILLIAMS: Thank you very much.

GELLERMAN: So, tell me about this irrigation system.

WILLIAMS: Well, the irrigation system is basically an L-shaped drip irrigation system. The system comes down and it’s actually stuck in the ground, and then it has two arms that come out of the system that run parallel to the ground. The plants are actually planted in raised mounds so the plant kind of sticks out of the side of the hill.

GELLERMAN: It’s gotta look a little weird having these mounds of plants growing sideways.

WILLIAMS: Well, the plant is growing sideways, but within two or three days the plant turns up to the sun. So, you can’t really tell that it’s been planted differently until you dig the plant up and you realize that when you get down to the root system the roots are actually growing in an L-shape.

GELLERMAN: And you can actually double the yield of the tomatoes?

WILLIAMS: Yes. What happens is, by the plant being planted transversely the roots are closer to the topsoil. So if you’re having a drought, they’re closer to the topsoil so they can take in more moisture because they’re only about two to six inches deep, compared to if they’re planted horizontally when they’re anywhere between 14 to 20 inches deep.

GELLERMAN: So, what do you do with all of these tomatoes and zucchinis?

WILLIAMS: Most of the produce goes to local food pantries in our area. I’ve donated right at forty thousand pounds of fresh vegetables.

GELLERMAN: Forty thousand pounds? Boy, that must be quite a scene when you deliver all these tomatoes to these food pantries.

WILLIAMS: We’ll bring in an entire truckload of nothing but boxes of tomatoes, because you can’t stack tomatoes on top of each other because they’ll bruise. But when we bring in potatoes and green beans, there are five-gallon buckets in the back of my dad’s Dodge Dakota.

GELLERMAN: How about other kind of vegetables or fruits or crops? Do you think this would work with them?

WILLIAMS: Well, I have tested the LND system on zucchini and squash and it came up with the same result, and I’m hoping someday to be able to use it on larger farming crops, such as maybe corn and soybeans.

GELLERMAN: You’ve invented the better mousetrap.

WILLIAMS: Right. It’s taking what we already know and just kind of making it better. Because there are irrigation systems out there right now but, just like anything else, with cars or anything, you just want to try to make it better than what it already is.

GELLERMAN: Lindsey Williams is inventor of “Lindsey’s Nutrient Delivery System.” She’s one of this year’s recipients of the Gloria Barron Prize which honors outstanding young leaders who made a significant positive difference to people and our planet. Lindsey, thank you very much.

WILLIAMS: Thanks for having me.



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