Screening two biodegradable polymers in enhanced efficiency fertiliser formulations reveals the need to prioritise performance goals

Article


Redding, M.R., Witt, T., Lobsey, C.R., Mayer, D.G., Hunter, B., Pratt, S., Robinson, N., Schmidt, S., Laycock, B. and Phillips, I.. 2022. "Screening two biodegradable polymers in enhanced efficiency fertiliser formulations reveals the need to prioritise performance goals." Journal of Environmental Management. 304. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2021.114264
Article Title

Screening two biodegradable polymers in enhanced efficiency fertiliser formulations reveals the need to prioritise performance goals

ERA Journal ID5850
Article CategoryArticle
AuthorsRedding, M.R., Witt, T., Lobsey, C.R., Mayer, D.G., Hunter, B., Pratt, S., Robinson, N., Schmidt, S., Laycock, B. and Phillips, I.
Journal TitleJournal of Environmental Management
Journal Citation304
Article Number114264
Number of Pages9
Year2022
PublisherElsevier
Place of PublicationNetherlands
ISSN0301-4797
1093-0191
1095-8630
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2021.114264
Web Address (URL)https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0301479721023264
Abstract

Enhanced efficiency fertilisers (EEF) may reduce nitrogen (N) losses and improve uptake efficiency through synchronising N release with in-season plant requirements. We hypothesised that EEF formed via matrix encapsulation in biodegradable polymers will improve N use efficiency when compared to conventional urea fertiliser. This hypothesis was investigated for two biodegradable polymer matrices: polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA), containing 11.6% urea (by mass), and polybutylene-adipate-co-terephthalate (PBAT), containing either 19.4 or 32.7% urea; and two contrasting soil types: sand and clay. Nitrogen availability and form was investigated under leaching conditions (water) with a growth accelerator pot experiment involving a horticultural crop and novel non-destructive three-dimensional scanning to measure in-season biomass development. The PBAT 32.7% formulation enabled greater above ground biomass production at both 50 and 100 kg N ha−1 equivalent application rates compared to conventional urea. For the sandy soil, plant scanning indicated that improved uptake performance with PBAT 32.7% was probably the result of greater N availability after 25 days than for conventional urea. Two of the encapsulated formulations (PHA and PBAT 19.4%) tended to decrease nitrogen leaching losses relative to urea (P < 0.05 for the red clay soil). However, decreased N leaching loss was accompanied by poorer N uptake performance, indicative of N being less available in these biopolymer formulations. A snapshot of nitrous oxide emissions collected during peak nitrate concentration (prior to planting and leaching) suggested that the biopolymers promoted N loss via gaseous emission relative to urea in the sandy soil (P < 0.05), and carbon dioxide emissions data suggested that biopolymer-carbon increased microbial activity (P < 0.1). Controlled testing of N release in water was a poor predictor of biomass production and leaching losses. The diverse behaviours of the tested formulations present the potential to optimise biopolymers and their N loadings by taking into account soil and environmental factors that influence the efficient delivery of N to target crops. The greater N uptake efficiency demonstrated for the PBAT 32.7% formulation confirms our hypothesis that matrix encapsulation can enable better synchronisation of N release with crop requirements and decrease leaching losses.

KeywordsNitrogen fertiliser ; Enhanced efficiency fertilisers ; Nitrogen use efficiency ; In-season nutrient supply ; Mechatronics; Robotic plant scanning
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020300206. Agricultural spatial analysis and modelling
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Byline AffiliationsDepartment of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland
University of Queensland
School of Engineering
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