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Ready, Steady, Grow: Siberian scientists design ‘controlled-release’ fertilizers

December 12, 2017, 19:31 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Researchers have developed fertilizers, which decompose in the soil far slower than traditional ones

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© Maxim Shemetov/TASS

MOSCOW, December 12. /TASS/. Researchers from the Siberian Federal University (SFU) and the Krasnoyarsk Research Center at the Siberian Division of the RAS have developed fertilizers, which decompose in the soil far slower than traditional ones. These slow release fertilizers provide stable plant nutrition over several months. The following scholarly article on this development was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

The main advantage of the controlled release of the active substance lies in the fact that such fertilizer works over three initial months of plant growth without adding more fertilizer.

The researchers created pressed tablets made of a traditional fertilizer - ammonium nitrate and added a biodegradable polymer to tablets, poly-3-hydroxybutyrate (P3HB).

Additionally, a part of the tablets was primed with a polymer coating to ensure an even slower release of the fertilizer into the soil. After production, the scientists tested the new fertilizer in experiments on cultivating wheat (Triticum aestivum L.). These samples of wheat were grown using ammonium nitrate as a pure substance or two types of the newly created tablets.

The results of the experiment proved the maximum efficiency of the tablets with polymer coating. The biomass of wheat cultivated with such tablets was measured to be 25% larger than the wheat grown with traditional fertilizer. The researchers note that the addition of the biodegradable polymer enabled the longer release (up to three months) of the active substance to the soil. The new fertilizers can be placed in the soil at the stage of sowing seeds, and no further fertilization would be needed. This approach will also lead to cutting back emissions of poisonous pollutants into the environment.

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