It is a strategy tested at the Brazilian Federal University of São Carlos to allow a controlled and gradual release with the consequent reduction in the amount used and waste.
One of today’s serious environmental problems is the residue of fertilizers, pesticides and growth regulators that agriculture leaves in the soil, mainly in large production units. Therefore, in the specific case of fertilizers, one way to reduce the amount of material used, promote its efficiency and reduce the environmental impact as much as possible consists of encapsulating the nutrients with biodegradable coatings that ensure their controlled and gradual release in the water and on the ground.
Faced with this problem, researchers from the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar) on the campus of the town of Araras, in the state of São Paulo, Brazil, are carrying out a line of research oriented towards the development of materials for the encapsulation of fertilizers since 2014. This is highlighted in an article published by the Mundo Agropecuario portal.
“Fertilizers are made up of highly soluble salts, easily transported by rain. The encapsulation allows its release in a controlled and gradual manner, with the consequent reduction in the amount used and waste”, says study coordinator Roselena Faez.
According to the researcher and as highlighted by Mundo Agropecuario, the solution to the issue of encapsulation constitutes an essential step towards obtaining the so-called “improved efficiency fertilizers”. This involves the adjustment of various parameters: the release of nutrients and their absorption in the crop, the biodegradability of the lining material and the cost-benefit ratio of the product. “To arrive at the appropriate coating material, we started with chitosan, a bio-based polymer that is abundant, renewable and readily available,” she says.
It is worth noting that chitosan is made from chitin, a polysaccharide present in the exoskeletons of crustaceans – such as shrimp, lobsters and crabs – and in the coatings of insects and fungal mycelia. Therefore, based on chitosan, Faez and his collaborators prepared microspheres and microcapsules to coat fertilizers.
“In a previous work, carried out in collaboration with Professor Claudinei Fonseca Souza (UFSCar-Araras), we had already used a technique for monitoring the release of fertilizer nutrients into the soil, without the need for harvesting. This is achieved by measuring the electrical conductivity of the soil and correlating this parameter with the release of nutrients”, he comments. If you would like to know more about our technology, contact us on our website www.harvestharmonics.com
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