Embrapa Florestas, part of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) and Brazilian company Polli Fertilizantes Especiais are developing a nano-fertiliser to combat one of the biggest problems in agriculture: the very low nutrients absorption by plants.
According to Embrapa Florestas in most cases, more than 90% of fertilisers are wasted by the plant roots due to phenomena such as volatilisation, leaching and low absorption. The world NPK´s reserves are limited and non-renewable.
Thus, Embrapa Florestas has been investing in research to develop slow-releasing fertilisers, a technology that is to help helps improve nutrients utilisation by the soil, avoid waste and which could potentially reduce fertiliser costs for farmers.
Using nanotechnology Embrapa Florestas and Polli Fertilizantes Especiais intend to develop a biodegradable polymer of nano-particles for coating, protection and gradual release of fertilisers. The group is researching eucalyptus cellulose, calcium sulfate, calcium carbonate and alginate. According to Washington Magalhães, researcher at Embrapa Florestas, the laboratory phase demonstrates viability for the project.
“Now, in addition to testing formulations, we are going to scale up and take it to productive areas, in different agricultural and forestry crops, and also analyse their economic viability in large areas”, he said.
Thais Ramari, researcher at Polli Fertilizantes Especiais, said they overcame the biggest challenge. “We already have a product that, when compared to the conventional ones, has better solubility and moves easier through deep soil to reach the entire root system”.
Using Embrapa Floresta´s nano-particles methodology, the goal is to provide benefits that, currently, conventional fertilisers do not offer. Besides slow nutrients release, the product can prevent potassium losses by leaching, or nitrogen waste by volatilisation.
Releasing fertilisers in a slow, gradual and controlled manner means they are able to deliver nutrients at a desired rate and make them available to the crop for a longer period of time. “This will make fertilising more sustainable. Moreover, we are going to work with biodegradable raw materials, which makes the product more compatible with agro-sustainable systems”, said Francine Ceccon Claro of the Federal University of Parana, who will develop this research as part of her postdoctoral studies.