Frequently Asked Questions

About Zeba and How It Works

Zeba is a unique soil amendment that absorbs water and releases it back to plants when they need it. With a steady supply of water, plants grow healthier, crops are more uniform and yields are increased. Made from natural cornstarch, each Zeba granule works like a sponge, absorbing in excess of 400 times their original weight in water, forming hydrogels that slowly release the held moisture as plants need it. Zeba is capable of holding and releasing water over and over again through the growing season. Zeba also binds and releases water-soluble nutrients keeping more fertilizer in the root zone, reducing leaching. The healthy microenvironment created by Zeba keeps moisture where it is needed near plant roots. Over time, Zeba is broken down naturally in the soil, leaving no residue behind. It’s a versatile product that can be used for most any home and garden plant, on the farm, at commercial nurseries and landscape services, etc.

Zeba is the culmination of research initially led by USDA in partnership with private industry. UPL now owns this patented process and has made Zeba available worldwide. Zeba particles store water in a net-like matrix using weak attraction to water molecules. This weak attraction allows Zeba to absorb and, more importantly, release more than 400 times their own weight in water, hydrating and rehydrating with every irrigation or rain event through the season.

Zeba improves seed germination rates, promotes fast and uniform emergence, improves stand establishment and ultimately improves yield and quality. Zeba also helps plants avoid stress caused by heat spikes and drought by optimizing plants’ use of available water.

Zeba is formulated from natural cornstarch, but it is not organic-certified. During the manufacturing process, the molecular structure of the cornstarch is tweaked to give Zeba its ability to store and release water. This process limits qualification for organic certification.

Zeba stays active for a full growing season or more, depending on the microorganisms present in a particular soil. A new application of Zeba is recommended at each planting to ensure optimum efficiency.

Since replanting disturbs the soil in the seedbed, Zeba should be applied each time a crop is planted. This keeps Zeba in the correct location for the seeds or plants.

No, Zeba provides benefits to plant health in all soils. Soil particles in sandy soils are relatively large and have poor water-holding capacity. Zeba holds water, preventing it from quickly moving through the root zone, holding water where it is needed. Clay soils, which are more compacted, benefit from the aeration created as Zeba expands and contracts, which increases oxygen levels and water percolation.

In order to work properly, Zeba needs to be incorporated or placed under the soil surface where it can absorb and release water to plant roots. Zeba dry granules can be applied with any standard Gandy-type applicator or similar metering device. Zeba root dip is applied as a slurry to roots. Zeba LF can also be mixed with concentrated liquid fertilizer solutions and applied as a pre-plant or side-dressing.

In general, we recommend a fresh application of Zeba with any new planting. This ensures Zeba is in close proximity to the seeds (for improved emergence) and roots. This will help accelerate germination and provide benefits through the growing season. In most soils Zeba should remain active for a year, depending on the microbes present in the soil that break down Zeba.

Yes. By combining Zeba and nutrients, you provide plants an optimum opportunity to deliver premium yields and quality.

Whether Zeba is applied as granules to a transplanted landscape plant or applied as a root dip or as a slurry in transplant water to commercial crops; plants will be given a constant source of moisture leading to less water stress, better survival rate and greater plant root and biomass development for healthier plants and better crop yields.

By applying Zeba in seed furrows at planting, the germinating seed and seedlings have a constant supply of moisture and available nutrients for a more complete, consistent germination and seedling emergence. Zeba removes variances caused by dry spots in the field (or even sprinklers) for more uniform stands and plant development.

Zeba keeps the soil surface moist and minimizes crusting by creating small fissures in the soil as the granules absorb and release moisture. This allows more seedlings to penetrate the surface and become established.

During most growing seasons, plants treated with Zeba will show a definitive advantage in seedling emergence, seedling vigor, plant development and overall yields and quality. Even in years when water is not a limiting factor to growth, Zeba will still offer soil conditioning and reduced leaching benefits to soils and the environment.

Yes! Zeba is a natural starch-based formulation. It is pH neutral, it degrades in the environment and is safe for any plant. Synthetic polymers, on the other hand, typically contain significant amounts of sodium, petroleum and other fillers, which can be detrimental to food crops. Because it is starch-based, Zeba particles are an attractive food source for soil microorganisms. Over time, the microbes consume the Zeba, creating a richer soil environment.

No, plants require a specific amount of water for optimal growth. Zeba does not change that amount, but it does help manage the water more efficiently. Instead of water being dispersed into the soil or evaporating, it is absorbed by Zeba and held for the plant to use as needed. This “bound water” more effectively and efficiently nourishes the plant. Zeba can reduce water application requirements over the course of a growing season through better water utilization.

No. Zeba triggers no chemical reaction. Zeba merely absorbs moisture and water-soluble nutrients it contains and remains suspended in the plant root zone, storing the moisture and nutrients in plant-available form.

Zeba granules will expand to many times their original volume, then contract and repeatedly expand based on the water available. This action forces soil particles apart, increasing aeration – the key element required to prevent root rot. Once the granules reach their maximum absorption, excess water is allowed to move deeper into the soil profile. This combination of ideal water availability and good aeration promotes faster plant growth and minimizes the potential for root rot.

No. Zeba completely breaks down in the environment. Cornstarch, the main component, is a food source for microorganisms present in the soil, so as Zeba breaks down it provides a food source for soil microbes. This results in improved soil quality and, over time, creates a rich soil environment that helps plants flourish.

Zeba differs from other superabsorbent products because of how we work. Many superabsorbent materials are manufactured for purposes where tightly binding moisture is required (baby diapers, for example). Zeba is made from natural cornstarch and loosely holds water in a net-like matrix which makes that water available to the plants when needed. No other material on the market today holds as much water and is able to release that water to the plant as well as Zeba.