The use of biodegradable biopolymers of natural origin to fertilize plants represents a sustainable alternative to the usual use of inorganic nitrogen fertilizers, which have negative consequences for the environment.
In this framework, researchers from the Center for Plant Biotechnology and Genomics (mixed center of the Polytechnic University of Madrid and the INIA), in collaboration with the University of Hamburg, have developed a method for obtaining a biocomposite from chitin of the exoskeletons of crustaceans and insects.
Its use in the cultivation of vegetables has shown that its growth is very efficiently increased. Thanks to the fact that it is a biodegradable, insoluble and innocuous compound for human health, it does not pollute the natural environment, it does not smell and it can be used in less quantity than others as it is not lost by evaporation or leaching.
Thus, it is capable of recovering the soil biodiversity lost due to agricultural overexploitation. In addition, the cost of this product can be up to 10% cheaper than that of other organic fertilizers, which represents an additional advantage for its future implementation.
Nitrogen fertilizers traditionally used in agriculture have polluting effects on both the water and the atmosphere, which degrades the biodiversity of the soil and, in addition, contributes to the increase in global warming.
For this reason, the agri-food industry demands, more and more, efficient and respectful plant fertilizers with the natural environment. With the aim of helping to solve this problem, the group of researchers - led by Dr. Marta Berrocal - has done is to develop the necessary technology to produce biodegradable material from biopolymers from arthropod chitin.
10% increase in nitrogen This material has been tested as a fertilizer and has been shown to stimulate the growth of various species of plants, both forest and herbaceous, increasing their total nitrogen and carbon content by up to 10% as well as the growth of their estate.
As it is insoluble, it does not pollute water, and because it is biodegradable, its use can contribute to recovering the biodiversity of the soil.
All these characteristics, together with the fact that its method of obtaining is relatively simple and that its use would be cheaper than that of traditional fertilizers, make this new material a sustainable alternative and easily commercially implemented in the area of agricultural fertilization, contributing thus to the development of a sustainable agriculture.