Bio-based Coated Fertilizers for a Sustainable Agricultural Future

The United Nations World Population Prospects report predicts a significant surge in the global population, reaching 9.7 billion by 2050 and a staggering 10.4 billion by 2080. As the demand for food increases, it becomes imperative to find sustainable solutions to enhance agricultural productivity. One promising course of action is the use of specific fertilizers tailored to crop needs, effectively increasing production yields. However, traditional fertilizers come with environmental challenges, making it crucial to explore green alternatives that address nutrient loss reduction, increase crop yields, and mitigate environmental impacts. 

The Role of Fertilizers in Sustainable Agriculture 

Fertilizers are important tools that provide essential nutrients to plants that may be lacking in the soil due to reasons such as soil type, previous crops used or the weather in the region. Traditional fertilizers contain macronutrients, such as nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K), required by all cultures in a certain amount. However, the commonly used NPK fertilizers are no longer sufficient to meet current demands. Besides the macronutrients, plants also require other elements present in low quantities in the soil. These elements are known as micronutrients, for example, Boron (B), Zinc (Zn), Iron (Fe) and Copper (Cu) are common micronutrients necessary for plant nutrition.  

Understanding the limitations is an important step towards improvement and development of better solutions. Improper application of fertilizers presents downsides, particularly negative environmental impacts, as a higher amount of fertilizer is applied in the soil compared to the rate of absorption by the ground. This is where the application of new techniques such as coating fertilizers assumes significance. Such devices possess important characteristics to mitigate the negative impact of commercially available fertilizers. 

Controlled-release fertilizers, also known as coated fertilizers, consist of a granular core base and an outer layer composed of an inorganic or organic element. Coatings formulated with renewable materials have garnered significant attention due to their ability to reduce nutrient loss, increase crop yields, mitigate environmental impacts, and deliver micronutrients to the soil. Moreover, these coatings offer economic benefits by eliminating the need for constant fertilizer application. 

Biopolymers and a Greener Future 

Currently, most coatings in use are petroleum-based and non-biodegradable, posing significant risks to agroecosystems and groundwater contamination. They offer significant advantages in crop production by regulating nutrient release to optimize plant uptake, reducing the risk of nutrient runoff. However, conventional polymer-coated fertilizers can generate microplastics that accumulate in soil and water, with variable degradation kinetics observed in soil (Accinelli et al., 2019). 

The intentional release of microplastics from polymer-coated fertilizers, including additives, amounts to 22 500 tonnes/year in Europe, comprising 62 percent of all intentionally released microplastics, with coated seeds and pesticide formulations contributing 500 tonnes/year each (European Chemicals Agency, 2019).

The seed and fertilizer coatings are no exemption from the EU law banning solid microplastics in products placed on the market and slowly phasing them out by 2028. To enhance soil nutrient balance and minimize microplastic pollution, the development of bio-based and biodegradable coatings is essential. 

At BIOWEG, we have formulated AgriWeg to replace synthetic polymer-based coatings from seed and fertilizer industry, promote more eco-friendly approach to farming without compromising on performance or convenience. AgriWeg is a line of biobased biodegradable within one year coatings, this product is customised and it can deliver tuneable solutions. The release profile of our bio-based coating could be formulated in a way to meet the requirements of the crop and land, but it also enhances the loading of micronutrients, and it is easy to handle and apply.  

As the global population continues to grow, sustainable agricultural practices become indispensable. Fertilizers, being a vital aspect of modern farming, must evolve to meet the increasing demands while minimizing environmental impacts. The development of green alternatives, such as biobased and biodegradable coated fertilizers, presents a promising pathway to achieve these goals. By aligning food provisions with the surging demand, we can work towards a more resilient and ecologically responsible agricultural system that sustains both the world’s population and the planet. 

Learn more about our bio-based and biodegradable highly functional solutions in the Products section.

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